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Truck Drivers Life Expectancy Rate – Where’s the Proof?


For years, we have heard that truck drivers have a life expectancy rate that is ten to sixteen years shorter than the average person.  The phrase, “studies have shown” is all across the internet and publications alike.  The problem however, is the inability to locate the actual studies.  The FMCSA, along with Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, have both stated that truckers live 16 years shorter than the average population.

Comments such as this are largely attributed to a “study” performed by Dr. Moore-Ede, a professor at Harvard Medical School for 23 years.  The only problem is . . . Dr. Moore-Ede never performed such a study.

There have been other “studies” as well which have concluded that professional truck drivers suffer from various health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, low back pain and ulcers.  There is no disputing the effects of a life in trucking and its toll it takes on the human body.  However, there is no such study that I have ever been able to locate that specifically details any findings to conclude the lower life expectancy rate for truck drivers.  Thankfully, that may be changing . . .

A $2.6-million study is being funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association over three years, and will be conducted by Michel Johnson, a New Brunswick professor.  Johnson, who has stated, “Trucking companies are worried about losing experienced drivers in the prime of their life due to health problems”, will examine the health habits of 1,000 truck drivers in Atlantic Canada, and notes that it will be the largest study of its kind in the world.   It is good to know that trucking companies are “worried” about us . . .

I have a problem with these so-called studies.  It seems that the money involved always leads to the desired results wanted.  We have seen doctored studies and results before in this country by the FMCSA such as the sleep apnea studies which we reported on in our Sleep Apnea Mandate post.  Most recently, a report by Edgeworth Economics found that the FMCSA used questionable data in an attempt to justify its proposed changes to the HOS rules.  In a report by Truckers News Magazine, an Edgeworth spokesperson stated, “Many of FMCSA’s new approaches rely on misapplication of available data, use outdated information or lack empirical support entirely.”

With reports flying all over the place stating that truck drivers now have a life expectancy of 61 years . . . I just do not buy it.  Logic tells us all that the lifestyle of the professional trucker is one of poor eating habits, lack of exercise and terrible sleep habits.  The majority of health problems that truck drivers face are largely due to poor diet and the lack of proper rest and sleep.

Between the years of 1992 and 1996, nearly 3,000 truckers died due to work related issues.  During this same time period, truck drivers experienced the most fatalities of all vocations, resulting in a recorded 12% of all work-related deaths.  In 1995, U. S. truckers also experienced more non-fatal injuries than workers in any other occupation, a number reaching over 150,000.

If truck drivers are living shorter lives than others, is it because of health issues associated with the trucking lifestyle, or is it due more to the dangers and hazards of life on the road or a combination of the two?  Hopefully, this new “study” will settle the truck driver life expectancy rate once and for all and will not doctor the numbers to satisfy desired results.

My next question would be, “What will the benefits be from this study?” In the past, when I have brought up the work-load placed on drivers, the response I received from some trucking companies have been, “Well, find another job.” If the study does prove for once and for all, that truck drivers live shorter lives, will the FMCSA place further regulations on companies and drivers for the sake of their health?

The lifestyle of the professional trucker is obviously the culprit for poor health, but will this new study change anything?  Will truck stops change their menus toward a healthier food choice?  Will companies stop pushing their drivers beyond human capabilities?  How will the results of the study prevent truck drivers from receiving an average of five hours sleep per day?  Will the results actually change the trucker’s lifestyle?

Of course drivers have health issues . . . look at the lifestyle, but these professionals have chosen the lifestyle and accept the complications in order to provide for their families.  Health problems come with the job, but I for one, would like to finally see an actual study proving that their life expectancy is 16 years shorter than the average person.  If so, and the study is completely unbiased and accurate, I will then like to see what the industry has in mind to improve the lifestyle of the professional trucker;  or they can just send me the $2.6 million and I’ll provide the answers to the “study” in about ten minutes.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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11 Responses to Truck Drivers Life Expectancy Rate – Where’s the Proof?. - Post a Comment

  1. Kelly

    I am soon to be starting my CDL A classes. I know that I will have to ‘pay my dues’ so to speak in the trucking world, and that I am probably going to have to do at least 1 year OTR before I can apply for a local company in my state.
    This is one concern that I have had. I recently had a major accident at work that has left me with a bad back, the doctors said that the pain may go away, then it may not. In the past year I have experienced allot of improvement but because the nature of the accident the rest seems to be slooow going.
    Anyway, I will be going from a work environment where I was always in motion to one where I will be in motion, but not physically.
    I do not smoke, or drink anymore (well from time to time 🙂 ) so I suppose that is a plus for me.
    I guess it will be a matter of eating as healthy as I can, and not clogging the arteries.
    Getting as much exercise as possible when possible, and drinking lots of water.
    I think that people can be drivers and stay healthy as long as they take into consideration what they do for work and offset it with good practices to stay healthy.
    However I have seen many drivers who are overweight junk food junkies and smoke, these two combinations can kill the most active person, let alone, someone who sits for hours at a time and gets no exercise at all.
    Love the site! Keep up the good reading and information!


  2. John

    While serving in the military I repeatedly scored a perfect 300 on APFT which earned me informal title “Iron Mike”.Height 6’1” waist 30”.Lean mean fighting machine-life was good.

    Now I drive OTR while making pathetic attemps to stay in shape.

    No matter what I do or eat-I am gaining 1” on my waist every month.

    The reason-a lot of stress.For some time I am eating a scientific diet of canned beets & small amount of fat-free fish.

    Then after 4-5 weeks on the road I just cease to care anymore.Go to TA restaurant and consume $16 steak and huge side dish.With a bucket of Cola to boot.

    Makes absolutely no sense to pee against the wind diet-wise.

    Also I believe that those studies are true.Unless I re-enlist I’ll turn into a fat slob with a lifespan of 54 years.

  3. Allen Smith

    Thanks Kelly, and good luck in your new career.

  4. Allen Smith

    Trucking is a tough lifestyle, that’s for sure – be it OTR, Regional or even local . . . eating right, exercising and trying to stay in shape while living in a truck 24/7 is easier said than done. I know a lot of drivers. I understand complications with diabetes, etc., that comes from the lifestyle, but with 34 years in the business, I don’t know of anyone who have died young from trucking. I know of many with aches and pains and other ailments, but none who have died young purely from truck driving. The problem I have is that there are NO studies that can stake this claim. There are many studies that prove truck drivers suffer from many health problems, that is indisputable, but let’s have at least one unbiased study where the numbers are not bought through money, which will actually prove this rumor is true, once and for all. Then, if so, what can be done about it?

  5. John

    ===what can be done about it?===

    The best I can think of is forced fat-farm-rehab at Parris Island run by some vicious DI.

    Feds can subsidize it-they already subsidize a lot of meaningless crap anyway.

    By the way,did you notice that to enter some TA truck stops one must go thru the food court?

    They just assume that you are animal ready to eat whenever the food is put under you snout ?

  6. John

    Also I read some of your articles-you know what you write about.

    Keep up the good work !

  7. John

    One last question,Mr. Smith.

    I read many books on the history of trucking in the US-because my Dad drove for 100% Teamsters Schneider National (he quit in disgust when Agent Orange busted the union in the late 70’s).

    50-60 years ago O/O leased to the company was paid as a company driver plus reimbursed for the use of his equipment.

    The question is-Why and How this fair system turned into modern-day 80cpm share-cropping ? It is providing service at 50% below costs !

    According to ATA annual report the total cost of operating a truck is $1.83 per mile or $82 per hour.Rest assured-large carriers count every penny.

  8. Allen Smith

    It all began with deregulation. As the industry began charging the same rate across the board (as such) there slowly became no such thing as “service” any longer . . . nothing to force competition anymore.

    The industry as a whole finally realized that there was big money to be made off the backs of the drivers. The CDL schools that began to pop up overnight and still practice theft and fraud to this day by locking in CDL students for several thousand dollar loans, knowing that many will not make it in OTR trucking, or they have poor MVR records, etc., and they’ll never get hired anyway . . . but the CDL school wins anyway.

    Trucking companies finally realized that they could really rake in some serious cash off their drivers by (1) continual turn-over of their tractors through lease-purchase plans and (2) starting their own “CDL Schools” . . . When the Government began shelling out millions of dollars to companies and CDL schools for CDL training (work force act), the entire scam industry really took off.

    I could go on, but you get the picture . . .


  9. Cynthia Hightower

    Where is the proof that truck drivers life expectancy is shortened by their occupation. I’ll give you proof all fo the missing drivers found deceased in the cabs of the truck on average they are all below the age of 60 . The CDC does not track this and they should. OSHA and DOT are not involved in investigations of these deaths but they should be . Cardiac Arrest, Myocaridal Infaction, Icschemic Heart Disease , and Pulmonary Edema can be all be triggered by acute and chronic carbon monoxide expsoure. Numerous other diseases also effected by Carbon Monoxide expsoure. Fatigue , Carbon Monoxide exposure. Why is no one looking at the trucks??????????? The proof my husband died at the age of 56 . Left smelling , dead in the cab of the truck with drivers walking by and ignoring the smell. Wake up people. Carbon Monoxide Meters belong in every truck. My husbands medical records prove he had not major health issues until be got behind the wheel and drove from 2005 to 2012 . His company left us with no life insurance and no comp benefits because they do not believe his job attributed to his death. I will continue to fight to prove what happened to Bob and I will continue to keep expressing that Carbon Monoxide level should be part of DOT physical and all accidents and deaths should have immediate carbon monoxide testing with emissions systems reviewed on the trucks. Thanks to every thing you and Missing Truck Drivers do everyday.

  10. maurice

    I was an OTR driver for 35 years before hypertension forced me to retire at 55. company doctors will “fix” D.O.T physicals to allow drivers with serious health problems to keep driver I knew had 2 heart attacks and a stroke and was still on the is hard for some people to leave that lifestyle but I have no doubt that if I had stayed on the road my life would have been shortened substantially. don’t know if 16 years is the right number but until the FMCSA enact better regulations we are all going to pay for corporate profits with our health and I do not see things getting better.

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