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New York Times: Overweight truck drivers account for 13 percent of fatal truck accidents

November 25, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Truck accident attorney says many truck accidents are preventable, discusses the dangers of truckers with medical conditions like sleep apnea

This week, the New York Times wrote about the need for truck drivers to steer away from bad diets.

This article mostly tackles truckers’ health and skyrocketing insurance costs for the motor carriers who employ dangerously overweight truck drivers. But as a truck accident attorney and past-president of the AAJ Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group, I noticed that the story did not really focus on the real issue: the lives lost and the people seriously injured in (preventable) truck accidents due to truck driver health issues that cause these wrecks.

Consider some facts from the article:

o 86 percent of the estimated 3.2 million truck drivers in the United States are overweight or obese (2007 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association).

o Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers accounted for 13 percent of all fatal occupational injuries (preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

o 87 percent of crashes involving truckers stemmed to some degree from driver error; 12 percent of these cases were because the driver was asleep, had a heart attack, was in diabetic shock or had some other health problem (2007 report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

I’ve frequently written about drivers who are not healthy enough to be driving commercial trucks, whether they have underlying medical conditions or are overweight truckers.

Why is nothing being done about this?

Why are truck companies not cracking down with their standards for hiring and keeping up to date with medical records and physicals? Why are truckers allowed to go to phony medical examiners?

Most importantly, why are dangerously overweight truck drivers, many of whom clearly suffer from sleep apnea, still being put behind the wheel of 80,000 lb trucks on our roads?

Why do these preventable truck accidents have to keep occurring because the trucking industry turns a blind eye to safety in exchange for a bigger bottom line (sadly, no pun intended)?

It’s good to see this issue getting some national attention in some form. And I’m happy that, according to the story, transportation carriers, industry organizations and even truck stops are unrolling initiatives to help truckers slim down and improve their health – even if the reason behind this is to lower their own insurance costs, and not to improve safety and save lives.

I am not anti-trucker. I am certainly not anti-“fat trucker.” But this effort will improve truckers’ lives and well-being, and it will help prevent completely preventable truck accidents from occurring and destroying lives.

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident attorneys in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan truck accident lawyer tip: Connection between obesity and sleep apnea

Support for truck drivers

Insurance for Michigan truck drivers

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our truck accident attorneys today.

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3 Replies to “New York Times: Overweight truck drivers account for 13 percent of fatal truck accidents”

  1. I am fat. I have sevear obstructive sleep apnea, I also sleep using a CPAP machine.I also am diabetic and with high blood pressure. If you look at all the accidents out there with big rigs, you would find a very large majority of them being caused be the actions of passanger vehicle drivers. If you take all the unqualified for one reason or another off the road-the roads would be empty.JUST THINK ABOUT HOW YOU HAVE DRIVEN IN YOUR LIFE TIME.

  2. Tom, you are correct that of the approximately 5,000 Americans who are killed in motor vehicle accidents every year with trucks, a very high percentage – and I’ve read as many as half – the fault lies with the passenger vehicle driver and not with the truck driver for causing the accident. It is also true that some people make some very foolish driving decisions around trucks – something that every state’s CDL manual specifically warns truck drivers to be alert for because it is predictable. But the point of this piece that I wrote was to ask what can we do to stop PREVENTABLE accidents where it is the truck driver’s fault. Even if half of all truck accident-related deaths are caused by the passenger driver, that leaves still several thousand people being killed and tens of thousands being seriously injured where it is the truck driver or trucking company’s fault. And there is an alarming amount of medical research now about the dangers of overweight truck drivers who have severe obstructive sleep apnea causing preventable truck accidents. I am glad you are using a CPAP machine, which is the first important step. Thank you for your comment, safety – both your own and the driving public’s – is everyone’s first priority.

    1. Please contact me to try to help you and others with sleep apnea. This disorder can be corrected thru diet and activity. It is a direct result of being overweight and can be fatal. These techniques are very easy and require very little effort.

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