Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

About eight years ago, Michael B. Belzer of the University of Michigan’s Institute of Labor Relations summed up his study with the following words; “Low wages, long hours, piece work and unsafe working conditions. You have working conditions that I believe can be characterized as sweatshops … If the problem is not resolved soon, you won’t have to worry about gridlock because there won’t be any trucks on the road … I cannot comprehend why people don’t respond to this as a national crisis.”

Those “unsafe working conditions” that concerned Mr. Belzer have drawn considerably more attention recently. As stated in the American Shipper, a newly released Harvard Medical School study found that U.S. truck drivers face a nearly 50 percent greater chance of developing heart disease, with the most likely cause being diesel exhaust.

“Harvard officials claim the study is the largest and most comprehensive study yet of professional truck driver health, examining the jobs and medical histories of more than 54,000 male union drivers across the nation,” the article revealed.

“Researchers found the drivers, all members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had a lower normal incident of death compared to the general population, but that 49 percent of the drivers faced heart disease and a lung cancer rate 10 percent higher than the general public. Researchers also found that 32 percent of the dockworkers face similar heart issues.

“The study identified diesel exhaust soot and other breathable exhaust particles as the likely culprits for the elevated cases of heart disease and lung cancer. Researchers did note that truckers are by and large, heavier smokers than the general population, but that these higher levels of smoking could not alone account for the increases. The Harvard team also did not look at other common contributory factors to cancer and heart disease such as diet or lifestyle. Some medical authorities have questioned the link between diesel exhaust and lung cancer.

“Published in the August edition of the scientific journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, the Harvard study confirms past findings of smaller more focused studies, such as the elevated levels of heart disease of workers exposed to diesel or automotive fumes. The Harvard study also comes as many of the major sources of diesel exhaust creation, such as the West Coast ports, are conducting studies to discover their true impact on workers and surrounding cities. For the most part the studies have held out good news for drivers, with diesel emissions declining but still above federally accepted levels of clean air. A second phase of the study will examine diesel exposure disparity between specific jobs and facilities in the national trucking industry.”

[Up to this point we’ve been emphasizing the economic advantages our patented systems will bring to the industry. Our system’s in-house delivery capabilities, however, will bestow the greatest of all benefits … a healthy environment. Mr. Belzer and the Harvard researchers will be gratified to see this transition in place.]