By Sandy Long

Two years ago, Steven Burks, a former trucker now a behavior economist at the University of Minnesota, decided to do a study on obese truckers to see if there was a correlation between obesity and truck crashes.  Working with Schneider International, Burk chose 744 rookie drivers with two years or less experience to participate in the study.  Using BMI as a baseline, those with a BMI higher than 25 were considered overweight, while those with a BMI greater than 30 were considered obese.  Burk then checked crash statistics on this set of drivers.

From “During their first two years on the road, drivers with a BMI higher than 35 (“severely obese”) were 43% to 55% more likely to crash than were drivers with a normal BMI, the team reports in the November issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention.”

When I first glanced at this article, I immediately went up in arms due to the first paragraph.  “That there’s a direct connection between a truck driver’s crash risk and his or her body mass index.  Obese truckers, during their first two years on the road, are 43% to 55% more likely to be involved in a crash when compared against those truckers with a normal BMI.”  “Balderdash,” I thought.

After sleeping on it, and rereading the article, there might be just a glimmer of truth in this study, though I still think it is propaganda to further the agendas of both the FMCSA and the medical device manufacturers.  I have seen drivers so obese, that they cannot fit behind the wheel without tucking their bellies down below the steering wheel by hand and cannot turn the wheel easily.  Now these sizes of drivers might be unsafe, but other than that, no, I do not agree with the findings.

The study cites that “some ideas behind the increased risk may include sleep apnea, limited agility, or fatigue associated with obesity.”  Sleep apnea affects many non-obese people and there are no studies or facts at all that correlate sleep apnea with truck crashes, just suppositions.  It takes little agility to drive a truck down the road safely other than being able to get one’s feet to the pedals and use the steering wheel freely.  While it is true that some diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes or thyroid issues may cause fatigue in obese people, I know of no studies saying that obesity alone causes fatigue.

So what is the deal here?  While Schneider has one of the most comprehensive training programs in the industry, the drivers studied were still rookies with two years or less behind the wheel.  Though the FMCSA has blinders on in regards to the correlation between student or rookie drivers and crashes, we drivers can attest to the fact that these training companies are usually the ones in the ditch or in trouble somehow.

This makes me wonder, with the discrimination shown to obese people, if the severely obese students did not get the quality of training the other drivers did; I would hate to think so.  Trucking has always attracted people who did not fit into other professions, in the last decade or so, many obese people have entered the industry.  Some have been openly discriminated against to the point that they have filed suit against companies and won.

In my opinion, I think that the elephant in the room in this regard is not how big the elephant is, but in how well they were trained.  This study would have much more merit if experienced drivers, five years or more, had been studied instead of rookies.  That would have taken out the possibility of slanting the statistics to make the point in the agenda by using inexperienced drivers.  Since I have well over 4 million miles to my credit with no accidents, and have been obese to some extent or another for all of them, I think that this study for the most part is total balderdash; and I am sticking to that.




One comment on “Balderdash?

  1. I agree 100% with your posted article.But i’d like to comment about all these recent trends. For some of us, once upon a time the govt behaved in a way in which it acted to protect the general welfare of most all people concerned. And this in trucking for example the HOS were meant, at least to some of us, as a kind of limit to how much one could work so employees couldn’t be compelled or forced to work. Big money saw this and pretty much said, ”ok, you want regulation uh,” ”well you’ll get your regulation,” ”and by gosh you’re gonna work right up to that limit to.” Well for whatever reason that sentiment ran up against a court roadblock with the EOBR harassment case raised by OOIDA. My point is that the govt can be used as a double edged sword. It can be used to control business & capital, or it can be used to control labor or work. And I’m not talking about unions here. I’m just referring to us drivers that just want to safely do a honest days work without being constantly the target of corporate driven govt regulation. If you just stop and think for a minute of all the recent regs thrown at us by FMCSA; CSA(transfer equip responsibility on the driver. Never mind company trks don’t belong to us), EOBRs, sleep apnea, HOS, medical card cks(overdrive online just posted a revealing article on this), cell ph regulation beyond hands free they got cooked up. I mean the list could go on. Believe me i read some stuff that would make your jaw drop as to what they’d like to see happen. Anyway even though this final comment is off topic, although i believe is really indirectly related….here goes. LET SEQUESTER HAPPEN!! IT WILL LIMIT GOVT SPENDING ON DISCRETIONARY SIDE AFFECTING DOT & THUS FMCSA, WILL PREVENT ANOTHER DEBT LIMIT INCREASE THAT IS BEING SOUGHT IN THIS STUPID BUDGET DEAL. AND FINALLY IT WILL KEEP HANDS OFF SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE……I’m just saying

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