Truck drivers often work long hours, travel great distances and are responsible for the safe operation of large trucks. Long haul truck drivers have more than twice the risk of diabetes due to high stress and unhealthy food options. A study published in 2010 stated “”88% of truck drivers suffered from at least one risk factor including smoking, hypertension or obesity. There is a rate of 28% in long haul truck drivers at risk for sleep apnea, a condition which limits proper sleep”. Because of these problems, truck drivers may have been targeted about their health and driving. Recently there has been a lot of confusion about truckers with diabetes obtaining a CDL license. Learn more about the rules for truckers with diabetes.
- Years ago, there was a ban that prevented truck drivers with diabetes who used insulin from driving commercial vehicles for interstate operation. In 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) introduced the Diabetes Exemption Program. This permitted people with insulin treated diabetes to drive a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce; however, you needed three years of previous commercial driving experience to qualify. By 2005, this was changed. Even if you are on insulin, there is no need to show previous commercial driving experience.
- While the new law alleviated the need to have previous driving experience for individuals with diabetes who take insulin, there are 57 provisions, guidelines and screenings to pass in order to get a CDL. Applicants must also watch state requirements related to obtaining a commercial driver license. Drivers with insulin treated diabetes must show they have control of the condition while on insulin. Those with type 1 diabetes must be on insulin for a minimum of 2 months before they can apply for the exemption. People with type 2 diabetes must be on insulin for at least 1 month.
- If you have diabetes type 2 and do not use insulin to control it, there is no need to apply for a diabetes exemption. You do need to meet all the other safety and licensing requirements in accordance with the state agency that issues your CDL. You should be checked for vision, hypertension and neurological function as well as cardiovascular disease. These annual checks generally come with a written recertification.
- The purpose of these regulations for truck drivers with diabetes is to prevent them from endangering other drivers or themselves on the road. Since the crash that nearly killed comedian Tracy Morgan, by a truck driver who had driven too many hours without proper rest, federal regulators have been closely watching truckers who violate these regulations and other safety regulations.
- Truck drivers who have a state waiver and do not drive commercial vehicles in interstate commerce do not need to do anything else. If you want to drive across state lines for interstate commerce and use insulin to treat your diabetes, you must apply for an exemption with the FMCSA. The elevated restrictions are there since being on insulin increases the risk for hypoglycemia. Drivers can become weak, confused, disoriented or completely pass out due to hypoglycemia when on insulin. Always carry a quick glucose source including glucose tablets or hard candy to treat a low blood sugar reaction.
- To apply for a diabetes exemption, truck drivers can download a copy of the application on the FMCSA website. The application requires drivers to be evaluated by an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The doctors must provide certain information about your diabetes, including any additional information that might be requested by FMCSA.
- According to the law, the FMSCA must grant or deny an application for exemption within 180 days of receiving it. This can take longer if an application is incomplete or the agency needs additional information. If you are granted the exemption, the FMSCA will send you written information about the specific requirement during the two-year period exemption.
- Truckers often spend long hours on the road to complete a driving job on-schedule. Always have plenty of diabetes testing supplies on-hand in case you are on the road longer than you expect. Take medication as prescribed and do not miss any doses. Make time to eat your meals and snacks on a schedule to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. Try to avoid the temptation of fast or processed foods at gas stations or truck stops. Order a salad, vegetables or grilled meats over salty, fatty foods on-the-go. Pick foods that are broiled, baked, steamed, and roasted or lightly sautéed. Avoid foods that are fried, cheesy, buttery, and creamy or foods with heavy sauces. Snack on small servings of nuts, fruit or cheese sticks with whole grain crackers. Pack snacks or meals in a cooler and carry them on the truck. Avoid sugary drinks and carry diet ice tea or plain water. Look on the face book page of the American Truck Drivers Diabetes Association for road food suggestions and tips. Talk to your doctor about insulin schedule changes if you will on the road for a long time. Get enough sleep to minimize diabetes-related complications such as fatigue that can play a role in safe driving or high cortisol levels which will increase your blood sugars. Step out of the truck often and walk around for a few minutes to fit exercise and stretching into your day. Park further away when you are making deliveries to get in more fitness. Look for cab gym set ups to use on your truck during down time. Avoid smoking at all costs to improve your over all health.
Truck drivers do have an increased risk of diabetes due to their grueling work schedules as well as generally poor eating habits.
While the rules for truckers have become more realistic over the past decade, it is important to follow state and federal regulations. Keep control of your diabetes through healthy lifestyle habits and proper administration of insulin and other medications. Talk to your doctor right away about blood sugar fluctuations and other health care concerns.