Rick Craig, director of the OOIDA Foundation, said the idea for a study was developed by foundation officials and independent trucking researchers when they began to notice certain patterns in deaths among drivers.
The institute, known more commonly as NIOSH, is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Statistics from death certificates and other sources will be gathered for the study, with special attention to the cause of death. The study will use information from OOIDA to identify truckers who have died. That will be matched against the information from death certificates, as well as other sources, such as news clippings.
All the information is kept confidential by law – NIOSH personnel told OOIDA staff that no government officials – not the courts, Congress or even the president – could compel them to release the information contained in the death certificates.
Working with OOIDA will enable the federal organization to focus the study on owner-operators; up till now, little statistical data was available on those truckers.
“Self-employed workers get the least amount of attention of any group of workers,” said John Siebert of the OOIDA Foundation.
The NIOSH-OOIDA study could lead to information that will help truckers modify their behavior to cut the death rate, and it will help groups such as OOIDA by providing a scientific basis to push for changes in federal and state regulations to improve truckers’ lives.
The study will also establish a basis for further studies – for example, Craig said, if heart problems are found to be common, a subsequent study could attempt to determine what causes that illness in truckers. NIOSH officials said the study could lead to research on whether the deaths are related to truckers’ occupation or their lifestyle.
The study’s data could help OOIDA and future researchers pull in grant money to pay for those additional studies.
-by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor
Mark Reddig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.