In today’s safety-conscious environment for the trucking industry, the professional truck driver is facing the possibilities of more regulations, all in the name of safety. Nobody will dispute the importance of safety, but a major aspect that is most often overlooked by these regulators is the effect these regulations can have on the overall health of the driver.
Truck driver health is an important issue that seldom receives the media attention that it deserves. We are all familiar with the health problems that many drivers face, all due to the trucking lifestyle.
When you dig a little deeper, you will discover that most of these health issues can be attributed to one single factor: stress. Dig even more, and you will find that truck driver health problems can be brought on by something as seemingly simple as a change or revision within a particular regulation.
Serious thought should be given by the FMCSA on the possible health risks that drivers may experience when a new regulation is being considered, such as the proposed hours of service (HOS) change. We are all well informed on the various categories of illnesses that the trucking lifestyle brings, but one really only needs to look at one single element, the stress factor.
Clinical research has shown that stress causes as much as sixty to ninety percent of all illnesses. The professional driver is already surrounded by a very stressful environment and perhaps the number one focus of any driver is finances. When regulations are imposed that can cut into the drivers’ ability to earn a living, financial stress and worry can lead to serious health complications.
Stress has been shown to be directly related to physical complications such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- Sleep Disorders
- Heart Disease
- Eating Disorders
Stress is also the determining factor in other health issues including : chronic unexplained pain, ulcers, heartburn, increased asthma attacks, migraines, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Autoimmune Diseases. Nearly all of the health complications that are seen in the professional trucker can be directly linked to stress, and women truck drivers are also not immune to its effects.
Stress in women can lead to health issues including:
- Eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia which are 10 times more common in women than in men
- Stomach ailments such as cramps, bloating, heartburn and IBS which can lead to weight loss or gain
- Emotional conditions including depression which strikes women twice as often as their male counterparts
- Sleep problems including insomnia
- Difficulty in concentration
- Lowered immune response
The effects of stress on women can have even further health complications such as changes in menstrual patterns, skin reactions including rashes and hives, infertility and even cancer of the breast and ovaries. An entire array of illnesses and health problems, many associated with the professional truck driver and all brought on by stress.
As I receive many emails from drivers who are concerned with the impending HOS rule change, I find that they all have one aspect in common . . . all are worried about the financial stress that the new regulation will place on them. Will they be able to get enough miles to pay their bills and support their loved ones? This is the common denominator that I am finding in the emails and phone calls received by long haul truckers across the country.
Trucking regulations that overlap others, such as the HOS rules, speed limiters and EOBR’s, can only enhance the level of stress in truck drivers who are already fighting against low miles and cheap freight. Regulations, even with good intentions, for many drivers will turn out adding to the already serious health issue that drivers’ face.
For the FMCSA, it can appear to only be a simple change or revision to the hours of service rule . . . for the professional truck driver, it can be a direct assault to their livelihood and one that could lead to further health problems all brought on by a scientifically proven killer called stress.
© 2011, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.