TSQ: How concerned are you about sun exposure while driving?

by Adam Ledlow

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – The various health concerns affecting truck drivers have prompted industry groups to take notice of late, in some cases – like that of the current sleep apnea epidemic – even dedicating entire conferences to both educate the masses and look for solutions.

Next on trucking’s “least wanted” list appears to be skin cancer, following a move by the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow clear window films to protect drivers from sun exposure. In the past, both trucking companies and police enforcement had been leery about obstructing drivers’ views with window coverings, but some high profile cases have forced these groups to rethink their stance (see our story, starting on the cover, and while you’re at it, Google “trucker face sun exposure” for some jaw-dropping images).

While you can’t get a sunburn through a closed window, the risk of skin damage from UVA rays is ever-present for long-haul truckers. We stopped by the Husky Truck Stop in Mississauga, Ont. to find out how concerned drivers are about the risks of sun exposure.

Ed Franz, an owner/operator with Laidlaw Carriers in Guelph, Ont., says that while he’s thought about sun exposure, he’s more or less adopted a “What can you do?” attitude.

While Franz always wears a hat when driving, he shies away from using sunscreen. “Lying in the sun I might, although it’s probably just as bad if not worse through the glass,” he admits.

After hearing a backgrounder on the risks of sun exposure for truck drivers, Winnipeg-based owner/operator Guy Lefrance said it would be something he’d think about now, adding that if clear window films became widely available, he would look into getting one.

“I would look into it (to see) if it was good – there are things that come up that are useless,” he added.

Chad Grenier, a driver with Abram’s Towing in Toronto, says that, sadly enough, truckers’ love of clean, clear windows might be enough to deter them from using a window film – despite the risk of skin damage without one.

“In all honestly, I hate to say it, a lot of the drivers would have problems driving their trucks without a nice clean window to look out of. You start putting tint or anything in front of it, you can only imagine what’s going to happen,” he told Truck News.

Ed Bosak, a self-described “spare driver” for a few companies in Quebec, spends the majority of his trucking time driving a Montreal-Florida route at night during the winter months, thus avoiding the sun’s harshest rays. That said, Bosak is a chronic hat-wearer, having had two surgeries on his head for cancer, and was reminded yet again of the sun’s potential danger after seeing the recent photos released of a trucker with a face shockingly aged on one side.

“It piqued my interest, but I don’t drive enough to be concerned at this point,” he said. “At this point in my life I figure whatever happens, happens. So far my face is equal on both sides, I’m happy.”

Ian Coomber, a driver with Top Cut Industries in Minton, Sask., says that he would be all for industry-approved sun protection in his truck.

“If we can do something to protect ourselves from the sun, sure. It’s a lot easier than putting on sunscreen everyday, just sitting around your truck. If they can put up a screen or some kind of UV film on the windshield that would be great,” he said.

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