Severely Overweight Truckers Have Higher Accident Rates
Despite a lifestyle that requires being on the move, truck drivers are battling obesity. This presents a troubling connection to higher accident rates. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota-Morris, severely obese truckers have a 50 percent higher chance of getting into an accident in the first two years on the job than drivers of a normal weight.
The study was led by Stephen Burks, an associate professor of economics and management at Morris. Using records from 744 new drivers who trained at the company Schneider National, Burks' team analyzed and compiled the drivers' weight with their company accident reports. The researchers accounted for the number of miles driven and the type of work involved at the time of the accident.
"They all tell a consistent story," Burks said. "It's roughly a 50 percent increase in accident risk for drivers of BMI of 35 and above." BMI is calculated by weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared. For a 5-foot-10-inch person, that's a weight of 245 pounds or more.
Most of the accidents in the study were minor, but the risk also extended to accidents that were more severe, including those that must be reported to the Department of Transportation.
The study didn't reveal why the accident rate is higher for heavier truckers. Burks cites that in other research, findings commonly show that truckers with a high body mass index are also prone to obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that results in daytime fatigue due to disrupted sleeping. Since the body doesn't get a chance to enter into deep sleep at night, it doesn't experience a period where full restoration of motor skills and reaction time can occur.
Burkes said the disorder, "...suppresses your immune system and causes various kinds of potential co-morbidities...say, risk of stroke and heart attack, and it means you're always sleepy when you're trying to work."
He also mentioned that heavy truckers may also have movement limitations that could affect their performance.
The findings are published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.