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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Trucking & Logistics for Efficiency, Fuel Savings, and Air Quality

Diesel Linked to Truckers' Death Rates

The odds of dying from heart disease are nearly 50 percent higher for truck drivers than the general U.S. population

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January 30, 2008 - The odds of dying from heart disease are nearly 50 percent higher for truck drivers than the general U.S. population, and diesel exhaust is a likely culprit, according to a new Harvard University study of importance to transportation-heavy California.

Researchers said they were not surprised to find that the trucking industry workers had a lower overall death rate than the general population. But they were struck by the higher death rates for heart disease, particularly among truck drivers – 49 percent – and dockworkers, 32 percent. The lung cancer death rate also was elevated among drivers and dockworkers, by 10 percent.

The findings are part of the largest and most comprehensive study yet conducted on the effects of diesel engine emissions on trucking industry workers nationwide, from long-haul drivers to office clerks, engine mechanics and dockworkers exposed to exhaust in the yard.

Harvard Medical School researchers said they examined the jobs and medical histories of more than 54,000 male Teamsters union members who had worked for one of four national trucking companies from 1985 through 2000.

The findings are important not only for transportation workers but also for people who commute in heavy diesel-fueled traffic or who live or work near truck terminals, ports and railroad yards, said Cynthia Garcia, a state air pollution scientist.

The study led last Thursday's agenda of the California Air Resources Board, which regulates diesel exhaust as a cancer-causing agent.

A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study published earlier this month showed that diesel soot in the Bay Area has decreased nearly three-fold in the past 40 years even as fuel consumption increased six-fold. The decline has been more pronounced for truckers and others who breathe diesel exhaust daily on the job.

"This reduction in … diesel engine soot is due in large part to (state air board) and federal regulations and enforcement programs," Garcia told the board.

By Chris Bowman -
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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