Back in 2002, the University of Minnesota Morris began the Truckers & Turnover Project, a multi-year study involving students, faculty and several motor carriers. The cooperating firms operate in the long-haul truckload segment of the trucking industry, a segment that has a high turnover rate. The goal of the study, initially, was to project and identify factors that predict retention rates, productivity and other on-the-job outcomes for truckers across New Jersey and other states. One such outcome is crash risk.
Over the course of the past decade and a half, the study’s objectives have evolved based on the data researchers have collected over the years. In more recent years, as the project has developed the ability to combine motor carrier human resource and operational data with medical insurance claim data and diagnoses, researchers have turned their focus on the relationships between individual driver outcomes and medical conditions. The focus remains the same today.
Since changing their focus, researchers uncovered an enlightening correlation between a trucker’s weight and his or her crash risk, according to Science. What they found was that obese truckers are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to crash in the first two years on the job.
Back between 2005 and 2006, researchers asked 744 new truckers for their weight height and used each to calculate drivers’ BMI. A BMI higher than 25 means a driver is overweight while a BMI of 30 or greater means he or she is obese.
Researchers then kept track of all 744 novice drivers for the next two years or until they resigned. During that time, they noted every new accident on each driver’s record. What they found at the end of the two-year period was that those with high BMI also had a higher crash risk. During their first two years of employment, drivers with a BMI of 35 or greater were as much as 55 percent more apt to crash than normal-weight drivers.
Though the study continues to look into the reasoning behind these findings, researchers suspect the increased risk has to do with sleep apnea, a condition many health care professionals associated with obesity. Sleep apnea can cause daytime fatigue and limited agility, among other detriments.