Long-haul truck drivers routinely sleep away from home, spending long hours sitting behind the wheel. These drivers often depend on truck stops for the opportunity to sleep, stretch, get a meal, and visit the rest room. While most truck stops provide these basics, truck stops often lack exercise facilities, nutritious food, and healthcare, according to NIOSH research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Avoiding obesity-related illness

Long hours and large, cumbersome vehicles make it difficult for long-haul drivers to go beyond the truck stop environment to eat well and be physically active. Because these healthier lifestyle habits can decrease the risk of a host of obesity-related illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, truck stops with healthy facilities and food options could make it easier for long-haul drivers to maintain good health.

To learn whether truck stops provide an environment with healthy options, NIOSH researchers visited a sample of 16 truck stops in ten states nationwide, as part of the NIOSH National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Injury and Health. Using a checklist they developed, researchers recorded the availability of exercise facilities, medical clinics, and restaurant and grocery store health-food options, among other features, at the truck stops and the surrounding area. For the purposes of the study, they defined facilities in the surrounding area as being visible from the truck stop and within safe walking distance or with tractor-trailer access.

Healthy food scarce

Most of the truck stops studied did not provide healthy options, especially in terms of access to exercise and healthcare facilities. None offered facilities for exercise, and most (81%) lacked even a walking path. Nearly all of the truck stops (94%) lacked any access to healthcare facilities. Nutritional options were only slightly better. Restaurant and convenience store menus at half of the truck stops lacked any fresh fruit, and more than a third lacked any fresh vegetables.

Although this study included a small sample size that may not represent truck stops nationally, its findings highlight the need to increase efforts to improve the availability of healthy options for working truck drivers. Its findings can help direct these efforts by pinpointing areas that need improvement according to the researchers.

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