NIOSH Seeks Input on Study Examining Truck Driver Safety and Health
November 1, 2007
Contact: Christina Bowles (202) 245-0633
Truck drivers are at a disproportionately high risk for fatal crash-related injuries and for serious health disorders. 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. But significant gaps remain in data needed for linking given work factors and health outcomes with confidence, fully identifying and understanding risk factors, and designing effective interventions.
To meet this need, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is inviting public input that will help it design and conduct a national survey of truck drivers’ safety and health. The goal of the survey is 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.
The survey will focus specifically on gathering baseline safety and health information among a large, representative national sample of truck drivers. NIOSH is seeking comment on the content and conduct of the survey.
“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, M.D. “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 is gathering input through a public meeting November 1, 2007 in Chicago, and through a request for public comments through January 2, 2008 at www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/110/default.html.
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.
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. However, the relative contribution of occupational exposures and health behaviors to increased risk of injury and illness is largely unknown. NIOSH stakeholders have highlighted the need for a better understanding of the relationships between these risk factors as a research priority.
NIOSH proposes to conduct the survey at 40 truck stops across the U.S., involving both owner-operators as well as company drivers. The primary research questions for NIOSH are these:
- 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 is also conducting a study that will 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 will lead to the design of more ergonomically efficient truck cabs.
NIOSH is also working with international partners to collect information on best practices for preventing motor vehicle crashes at work, and to ensure that worker safety is incorporated into broad international road safety initiatives. Truck drivers and the role of the transport sector are a key concern for NIOSH’s global partners in road safety.
To learn more about occupational safety and health research in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/twu/ or visit the NIOSH website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/.