Contact: Joseph Su, Ph.D., M.P.H., primary investigator
LJSu@uams.edu

Long-haul truck driving have been classified as one of the highest-risk occupations in the United States as a result of drivers being routinely exposed to high levels of occupational-related stressors. Long-haul truck drivers adhere to a tight delivery schedule and must deliver each load on time so they may move on to their next delivery. This results in a nearly continuous journey on the road before they can return home for a break.

While in route, delays might occur due to situations beyond their control, such as traffic, road conditions or construction, weather, and mechanical issues. Events like these might result in truck drivers skipping their mandatory rest time in an attempt to satisfy their delivery deadlines, which can lead to chronic fatigue.

Spending most of their lifetime away from members of their social network, like friends and family, and lacking a consistent routine might result in truck drivers feeling socially isolated and unsupported. Repeatedly facing psychosocial stressors increases truck drivers’ levels of stress, depression and anxiety, ultimately worsening their mental health.

Poor mental health might lead truck drivers to partake in negative health behaviors, like tobacco product usage. Many long-haul truck drivers use tobacco products as a way to relieve their feelings of anxiety, boredom and social isolation.

Additionally, truck drivers remain seated for long durations of time while on the road; this leads to a lack of physical activity, a lack of healthy food options, and exposure to diesel exhaust, all of which result in drivers being at a heightened physical health risk. This constellation of risk factors enhances long-haul truck drivers’ likelihood of developing multiple chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, other metabolic syndromes and cancer.

Our study attempts to directly assess attitudes towards smoking, social norms and workplace barriers as important factors related to health for long-haul truck drivers. The study is expected to enhance our understanding of what major risk factors are associated with occupational hazard, dietary and smoking behaviors and what health consequences are involved. Gaining a thorough understanding of these risk factors and consequences allows researchers to develop intervention to improve truck drivers’ health.