Truckies Fuelled on Fast Food, Pills, Energy Drinks and Smokes Suffering Heart Attacks at the Wheel

Sep 18, 2013
Truck drivers are putting themselves at risk of death by putting off doctors appointments to meet work deadlines. Source: News Limited

Truck drivers are putting themselves at risk of death by putting off doctors appointments to meet work deadlines. Source: News Limited

Exhausted and overweight truck drivers are suffering heart attacks and blackouts at the wheel because punishing deadlines mean they can’t see a doctor or get their prescriptions filled.

Herald Sun, by Sue Dunlevy, 18 September 2013



Up to 250 drivers a year are killed by the job as they battle serious chronic health conditions, fatigue and post traumatic stress disorder (caused by suicides).

They are driving up to 72 hours a week fueled by a diet of fast food, caffeine drinks and pills and cigarettes that are making their health problems worse.

Dianne Carroll, from south western New South Wales, whose truckie ex-husband died on the job has set up a volunteer group staffed by nurses that carries out health checks on drivers while they are on the road.

The Trans-Help Foundation has found many drivers have serious undiagnosed health problems like diabetes and heart conditions and deep vein thrombosis.

“There is an element of heart attacks behind the wheel and drivers who have hypos (hypoglycaemic blackouts) in the truck from diabetes,” she said.

Together with fuel company BP the group is trying to improve the food at truck stop cafes to improve the health of drivers.

Truck driver of 12 years Josh Symons, 29, was last week shocked to be diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol when he was screened by the Trans-Help Foundation nurses.

“I was very scared, very worried. I’ve got two young girls and I want to see them grow up,” he said.

“I don’t want to be another cross on the side of the road,” he said.

While drugs are being eliminated from the industry many drivers are using caffeine pill No-Doz in combination with sports drinks to stay awake.

Owner driver Frank Black, 54, says truckies are driving up to 72 hours a week and No-Doz washed down with an energy drink “gives you a spark up and it’s legal”.

He says agrees that punishing hours in the industry make it hard to see a doctor and the fast food consumed on the job combined with lack of exercise leaves most drivers with a weight problem.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said driving a truck is Australia’s most dangerous job with at least 250 deaths a year.

“The lethal pressures and constant demands from clients such as the major retailers, mean that truckies are eleven times more likely to be killed at work than the average for all other workers,” he said.

“We need those at the top of the supply chain, like the big retailers, to come to the table to help build a fairer, safer and healthier industry where drivers can afford to look after themselves and their rigs,” he said.

Australian Medical Association GP spokesman Dr Brian Morton said taking health checks to the truckies at truck stops was a great idea and should be publicly funded.

It would get over the reluctance many men have about seeing a doctor, he said.

“Many big rig drivers fear big brother and being banned from driving a truck because of a health problem,” he said.

“It’s a case of what they don’t know can’t harm them,” he said.

However, he said they could be assessed for risk factors at a truck stop through a simple pin prick blood test for diabetes and cholesterol, have their blood pressure taken and weight themselves on a set of scales.

“The rigs they drive are massive and if they are inattentive and wander across a lane and something happens it’s a public health issue as well as a personal health issue,” he said.


WAKE UP: coffee and cigarette

BREAKFAST: Bacon and egg McMuffin coke and a cigarette

LUNCH: McDonalds Hamburger or KFC fried chicken and chips

DINNER: Steak and egg and chips at truck stop or another hamburger

SNACKS: Hot chips, chocolate bars

ENERGY DRINKS: 3-5 a day

COLA DRINKS: 2-3 a day

COFFEE: 2-4 a day

CAFFEINE PILLS: up to 3 a day

CIGARETTES: pack and a half a day


VEGETABLES: Potatoes as hot chips

Read this article on the Herald Sun website.


© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.