By Jami Jones
Improving the health of truck drivers industry wide is a noble cause – and something that needs to happen. The average life expectancy of truck drivers is age 61 – 13 years shorter than the average adult by some estimations.
The devil is in the details when it comes down to how to go about improving truck driver health.
Right now, sleep apnea is the hot button issue drawing all of the attention. We can all agree that individuals with sleep apnea need to discuss treatment options with their personal health care providers. At best, going without treatment leaves these folks feeling like they’re not on the top of their game. At worst? It can lead to death.
Now there is an attempt to tie sleep apnea to highway safety. The FMCSA is moving forward to see whether there really is a link. Others don’t want to wait around and just want a one-size-fits-all mandate for testing if certain indicators exist because it’s “common sense.”
I can assure you, a heavy-handed approach is going to have more people who need sleep apnea treatment fearing for their jobs more than for their health.
It would be a lot like things were for diabetics years ago. If you were put on insulin, you were put off the road.
There were plenty of drivers whose diabetes raged out of control because they hid the need for treatment. They would lie to their doctors. They might even find a doctor who wouldn’t report them or worse yet some back alley clinic without any real training.
Those who did seek treatment usually found a second non-DOT doctor, paid out of pocket, and hoped they weren’t found out.
Finally, the prohibition was lifted and an exemption for individuals with managed diabetes was added to the books.
Know what happened next?
Drivers by the droves came clean with their doctors about their diabetes-related concerns. Many who had been limping along without insulin were given a new lease on life.
There’s more than one way to improve the health of truckers. And I certainly hope we find a way that truthfully achieves it – before we do something stupid and set driver health backward more than a few steps. LL