Posted 9/25/2017 by UHBlog
Unless you've ever driven a commercial vehicle, it can be difficult to know the toll that driving for long hours takes on both the mind and body. Movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy make the long-haul trucker's life seem glamorous, but the reality of driving a commercial truck can be grueling.
According to occupational medicine specialist Paul Miotto, MD, driving a commercial vehicle can be physically taxing and stressful, especially for drivers who are crossing multiple states, or even the country, within one week.
“People who work as commercial truck drivers have a different kind of job than someone who works in an office or factory.” Dr. Miotto says. “Many drivers work longer and irregular hours and often in dangerous, stressful conditions. For instance, they're dealing with unsafe drivers, road congestion and bad weather. They have delivery deadlines to meet, which puts a lot of pressure on them. Additionally, many of them are gone from home for extended periods of time, which can put a strain on their relationships or lifestyle.”
This kind of work environment can lead to unhealthy consequences, such as poor sleep, poor nutrition, back problems and chronic diseases. These, in turn, can jeopardize public safety, especially if a commercial vehicle driver isn't physically qualified to safely operate the truck. To address this, the Department of Transportation (DOT) established stricter physical exam requirements in May 2014.
The DOT physical ensures drivers have the ability and qualifications to safely operate a commercial vehicle. The medical exam can only be done by a certified medical examiner who is listed on the National Registry website. The DOT physical must be done once every two years, which is the maximum period a driver can be medically certified. Drivers with certain medical conditions may have to go more often for the DOT physical exam. Also, depending on the drivers' health status, their certification may be short term, covering only a six-month period.
“The DOT physical will pick up conditions that could limit drivers from performing the job safely.” says Dr. Miotto, who is a certified medical examiner on the National Registry. “It ensures that drivers can perform their job without posing any risks to themselves or their employer.”
In addition to ensuring your organization’s drivers are medically fit, the DOT physical offers other advantages, including:
- Regular checkups – “A lot of these drivers don't see their doctor regularly.” he says. “The medical certification ensures that conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea are being treated and under control.”
- Promotes overall wellness – Many larger companies offer online resources to their drivers to help them with smoking cessation, better nutrition and improved self-care.
“These companies are bringing wellness to their drivers through online health coaches and weight loss programs.” Dr. Miotto says. “They’re making it more convenient for the drivers, who can log in at a travel stop to access resources.”
Additionally, some travel centers have fitness rooms, walking trails and healthier food choices to promote wellness.
To learn more about University Hospitals’ occupational health and safety services, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions.
Paul Miotto, MD is an occupational medicine specialist for University Hospitals Occupational Health. You can
request an appointment with Dr. Miotto or any other doctor online.