Atlantic truckers' health focus of $2.6M study

A New Brunswick professor will study the lifestyle of truckers in Atlantic Canada to determine why their life expectancy is about 10 years less than that of the average person.

Michel Johnson, of the University of Moncton, is looking for ways to make trucking a healthier profession.

Trucking companies are worried about losing experienced drivers in the prime of their life due to health problems, he said.

"They're an interesting population. The average age is in the mid-50s now, and they are showing higher-than-expected incidences in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, for instance," said Johnson.

"Those are things that concern the trucking industry and concern us in the health sciences as well."

Johnson will examine the health habits of 1,000 truck drivers in Atlantic Canada, in the largest study of its kind in the world, he said.

His team of researchers will use a combination of interviews and mobile simulators to study how being on the road affects the health of truckers.

"Are there indications that there are sleep issues, that there are stress issues, nutrition issues, physical activity issues? Do we see some slowing in reaction times?"

Health issues can make it more difficult for truckers to stay awake and vigilant for long hours, Johnson said.

He plans to develop a commercial software application called the Healthy Driver Toolkit, which will provide an evaluation and intervention approach suited to the unique working conditions of the professional driver.

The toolkit will include both an analysis module and a remediation module to analyze driving skills, health, attitude and attention, and provide drivers with specific recommendations related to lifestyle.

The $2.6-million study is being funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association over three years.

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