A recently study says that a driver’s waist line can tell them about more than just the health of a driver, it can indicate the driver’s crash risk. Truck drivers have a high rate of obesity compared to other industries.
Many drivers spend long hours on the road, have very limited healthy meal options and get very little exercise. One study put nearly 70% of North American professional truckers in the obese weight class.
Behavioral Economist and former truck driver Stephen Burks of the University of Minnesota, Morris, led a two-year study of new Schneider National drivers. The researchers took 744 new driver’s height and weight and calculated the driver’s BMI.
For the next two years, the researchers kept track of the 744 drivers and took note of any accidents.
“That’s when the data stood up and shouted at us,” says Jon Anderson, a biostatistician also at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who co-authored the study. “We found really clear evidence that the highest-BMI drivers are at higher risk of having an accident.”
“During their first 2 years on the road, drivers with a BMI higher than 35 (“severely obese”) were 43% to 55%more likely to crash than were drivers with a normal BMI, the team reports in the November issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention. Drivers who are overweight or obese, but not severely, did not appear to be at higher risk, and the study does not indicate why. The relationship held even when the researchers corrected for number of miles on the road, geographic location, age, and other crash risk factors,” the magazine reports.
While the study does not point at a single factor other than BMI, Burke speculates that sleep apnea may be to blame. Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder that causes fatigue. The higher the BMI, the higher the risk for sleep apnea.
When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents and other medical problems.
According to Harvard Medical School Professor Charles Czeisler, the crash risk for a person with sleep apnea is 242% higher than a person without it.
It is estimated that 30-40% of truckers have sleep apnea. The condition can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
Last year, the FMCSA and the Medical Review Board recommended truckers with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher, be tested for sleep apnea.
Studies like this will no doubt fuel the fire for the push for mandatory sleep apnea tests for drivers with a BMI of 35 or higher.
To calculate your BMI, use the CDD’s BMI calculator: