Because there are “significant gaps” in data needed to link crash-related deaths among truck drivers to job-related fatigue and other health concerns, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is asking for public input on a national survey to assess truck drivers' health and safety.
The survey aims to collect information on truck driver health, sleep disorders, fatigue, working conditions and non-fatal injuries and gain a better understanding of how these risk factors contribute to health and safety.
“This is an important step in gaining a better understanding of the complex factors that may affect truckers’ risks for injury and illness,” said NIOSH Director John Howard. “Having this sound scientific understanding is a key aspect of all NIOSH research as we work to address the occupational safety and health issues faced by this high-risk worker population.”
NIOSH held a public meeting Nov. 1 in Chicago and seeks comments through Jan. 2, 2008 at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/110/default.html.
According to NIOSH, truck drivers are at a disproportionately high risk for fatal crash-related injuries and for serious health disorders. Characteristics of a truck driver’s job, including long hours of driving, loading and unloading cargo, irregular schedules, a sedentary lifestyle and the nature of drivers’ food choices on the road, are associated with work-related injury and poor health status.
Some research associates the risk of crash-related deaths with job-related fatigue. Other studies suggest that the risks of cancer, heart attacks and other disorders may be associated with aspects of long-haul driving.
Survey to Ask Critical Questions
There are more than 7 million workers in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2005, 585 fatalities occurred in truck transportation, accounting for 10 percent of all occupational fatalities in the United States.
NIOSH said it survey drivers at 40 truck stops across the United States, including both owner-operators as well as company drivers. The primary research questions for NIOSH will include the following:
- Is the prevalence of health conditions and sleep disorders greater in the truck driver population than in the general population?
- How are drivers’ working conditions associated with health status and behaviors?
- Are sleep disorders, fatigue and the working environment contributors to poor health outcomes, highway crashes and injuries?
- What are the short- and long-term effects of work-related injuries sustained by truck drivers?
In addition to this national survey of truck drivers, NIOSH said it also will conduct a study to identify causes of death for which truck drivers have a higher proportion of deaths than the general population. Another NIOSH study is collecting data on the body dimensions of truck drivers and on the dimensions of truck cabs. Results of this study should contribute to the design of more ergonomically efficient truck cabs.