Hidden Causes of Trucking Accidents: Undiagnosed Medical Issues

 In Car Accidents, Personal Injury

Trucking Accidents: A Growing Threat in the United States

Large truck crashes are a major problem in the United States. In 2014, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 3,660 people died in truck crashes, and 84% of those who died were people in passenger vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc. — not truck drivers. That’s a 16% increase since 2009, which indicates an upward trend in trucking-related traffic deaths in recent years. Because trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles (which means they can cause 20 to 30 times more damage), it’s worth investigating why these crashes occur. One of the less widely known causes for truck wrecks is undiagnosed medical issues that truck drivers face.

Truckers at Risk for Undiagnosed Medical Conditions

Although truck drivers have to pass a medical examination in order to be certified, there are many underlying or unreported health issues they can experience — and that could lead to a crash. The long hours and sedentary lifestyle of truck driving leave drivers vulnerable to a variety of illnesses. Since more than 100,000 people are injured or killed in crashes involving large trucks each year, these potential medical issues deserve more attention.

Drivers are often paid by the mile, meaning they spend long hours on the road, which doesn’t leave much time for healthy, home-cooked meals or exercise. This is at least part of the reason why 86 percent of truck drivers are overweight or obese. Obesity alone is a risk factor for a multitude of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, and even cancer. Many truck drivers have additional risk factors for these health issues as well, including smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, and more.

Sleep apnea is particularly dangerous because it often goes undiagnosed. A person with sleep apnea stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. This reduces their ability to concentrate during the day and can cause excessive daytime fatigue due to the interrupted sleep. Both of these effects directly impact the job of a truck driver who needs to vigilantly focus on the road in order to avoid crashes and reach their destination on time.

Most Truck Crashes Are Caused by Truck Drivers

A study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 87% of fatal crashes involving large trucks were caused by the truck driver, whether through inattentiveness, misjudgment, or a medical issue. A driver suffering from sleep apnea, for example, could fall asleep at the wheel or lose focus on the task at hand, resulting in a crash. In a more extreme scenario, a driver with a high risk for heart failure could have a heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm on the road and lose control of their 80,000 pound vehicle.

In recent years, several initiatives have tried to address some of these health problems by publishing exercises that can be done in small spaces and in a short time as well as easy recipes for healthier eating. While these are excellent ideas, they certainly won’t immediately solve all truck drivers’ health issues. Many truck drivers still have high risks for multiple illnesses that could ultimately become the cause of a devastating crash.

The Law Offices of George A. Malliaros: Helping Truck Accident Victims

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a crash with a large truck, contact the Law Offices of George A. Malliaros at (978) 452-6641 or fill out a convenient online contact form. We’ll support you every step of the way and treat you with the care and respect you deserve while we work together toward a positive outcome. We offer free consultations, and our no fee policy ensures that you do not pay fees or expenses until or unless we achieve a recovery.


Driving when you have sleep apnea. (2014, February 19). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/sleep-apnea/driving-when-you-have-sleep-apnea.

Ellin, A. (2015, January 3). A hard turn: Big-rig drivers focus on getting healthy. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/health/a-hard-turn-truck-drivers-try-steering-from-bad-diets.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Heart disease risk factors. (2014, July 29). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/risk-factors/con-20034056.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2016, February). Large trucks: About 1 in 10 highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck. IIHS. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2016, May). Large trucks: 2014 data. (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 279). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812279.

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