Truck accidents have many causes, and most come down to some form of negligence immediately prior to the accident (distraction, failure to make vehicle repairs, etc.). But the health of a truck driver can also put him at greater risk for a crash. Below are two serious medical conditions common in truck drivers that greatly increase the risk of a trucking accident.
Sleep Apnea leads to drowsy and fatigued driving
Research has indicated that long-haul truck drivers have much higher rates of obstructive sleep apnea than the general population. OSA is a medical condition characterized by blockage of the airways by soft tissue in the throat and mouth, similar to snoring. However, the obstruction is so bad that breathing can be completely interrupted for between 10 and 30 seconds at a time, many times per night.
People with OSA often wake up feeling more exhausted then when they went to sleep. During their waking hours, they are fatigued and groggy. As you can imagine, this condition is dangerous for any driver, but even more so for those who drive giant trucks across the United States.
Many truck drivers with OSA may not know they have it, or they may simply refuse to seek treatment for it.
Type 2 diabetes often undiagnosed and untreated
A recent article in a trucking industry publication discusses the high incidence of type 2 diabetes among commercial truck drivers. As with apnea, many truck drivers don’t realize they have diabetes or fail to get it treated. If left untreated, type 2 diabetes and its symptoms can lead to:
- Shaky hands
- Blurry vision
- Lack of coordination
- Mental fog
- Sudden diabetic coma
Obviously, any of these symptoms could increase the risks of a truck accident and may come on with little to no warning.
Truck drivers and trucking companies responsible for managing driver health
Most of the time, obstructive sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes are considered “lifestyle diseases.” They are typically caused by obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and other factors that can be controlled and corrected. It is the responsibility of trucking companies to conduct thorough health screenings of the drivers they hire and to monitor them for physical ailments that could increase their risk of an accident.
It is up to drivers to be honest on their medical forms, to take care of their own health/diet/exercise and to ensure that they are always ready to be alert and focused behind the wheel. When truckers and their employers fail to make health a priority, the lives and safety of all other road travelers are put at risk.