Volume 2, Issue 4 – February 28th, 2014
The health of commercial truck drivers is the next frontier for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to its chief Anne Ferro.
“Driver health remains a top priority, because of its direct link to safety,” she declared in a Jan. 14 speech to the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, DC. “That is why we work to identify the links between driver health and safety and to develop solutions to improve both.”
She cited the disturbing results of a study of long-haul drivers’ health funded by FMCSA and performed by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Centers for Disease Control.
Compared to the national working population about 70% of the drivers indicated that they were obese –more than twice the national average of 31%, the study found.
Half the drivers said they smoked cigarettes, compared to the national figure of 19%. In addition, about 14% of the long-haul truckers self-reported diabetes, double the national average of 7%.
“These study results are troubling,” Ferro said. “Research has proven that diabetes, obesity, and cigarette smoking contribute to serious health issues, such as heart disease and respiratory disorders. Individually or combined, these health conditions can affect a driver’s behavior, both on and off the road.”
Two weeks after her speech FMCSA released its study of the new hours-of-service regulations.
Not surprisingly, FMCSA’s own study found that everything was fine. The rules’ restart provision will impact only 15% of drivers while nonetheless managing to prevent 1,400 accidents, the study found.
American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association slammed the study, calling it inadequate and inaccurate.
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), author of a bill that would rescind the restart provisions, termed the study “worthless” because it examined only 106 drivers from three companies. He is seeking a delay in the restart provision’s implementation while the Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent study.
At TRB Ferro said the next step in combatting truck driver fatigue is formulating strategies to mitigate driver detention times and their associated risks, supported by research to be released this year.
“Excessive waiting times associated with loading or unloading cargo can negatively impact a driver’s schedule and interfere with that driver’s ability to comply with hours-of-service regulations,” she said.
“Ultimately, we need more carriers, shippers and receivers to focus needed attention on uncompensated detention time, because what makes the job better often makes the job safer.”