Healthy truckers means safer roads. Connecticut is living proof, literally.
There is a clear correlation between truck drivers who are driving with serious health issues, and the number of truck accidents these drivers cause.
And one state is tackling the problem head-on: Connecticut. Specifically, the number of truck driver fatalities last year was 14, down from 30 in 2006 – and the drop is being attributed to an intense recent focus on truck drivers’ health.
Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, says measures such as alcohol and drug testing and required medical exams are the reason for less truck accident deaths, according to a recent story on CBS New York.
In Connecticut, drivers are screened for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders – and then treated. They also are more strictly monitoring hours of service, and making sure drivers do not drive over hours.
In June of 2014, I wrote of another related safety development in the commercial transportation industry, where medical examiners must be government certified to clear truckers before they get behind the wheel. It’s especially important, as many truckers with serious health issues are now gaming the system, something I see as a lawyer in many of my own cases. These drivers go to certain examiners where they know ahead of time they will be given a clean bill of health, whether they’re actually fit or not to get behind the wheel.
Obviously, both of these developments are a positive start. Fewer truck drivers with serious medical disabilities behind the wheel is one proven factor that can reduce the numbers of truck accident tragedies on our roads.
I’d like to see states, including Michigan, take steps to better enforce our hours of service rules, which govern how many hours truckers are allowed to safely drive at one time and require rest periods based upon hours of active duty.
Kudos to Connecticut for focusing on their truck drivers’ health as a route to protecting the general driving public. States could take this much needed approach a step further and focus on healthier foods for truck drivers. It is a simple way to cut down on the obesity epidemic that’s so prevalent in the commercial transport industry, and that also leads to sleep apnea and other potentially dangerous medical conditions. This could mean greater availability of fresh produce at rest stops, wellness programs through the trucking companies and incentives to get and stay healthy.