One of the most common diseases that truckers develop is actually preventable. COPD, short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases, which include: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (irreversible) asthma, and severe bronchiectasis. Other names for COPD are Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD) and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD).

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD for Americans. 20-30 percent of smokers develop significant cases of COPD. Individuals are all different in their sensitivity to smoke. However, COPD can develop in people who have never smoked and especially those who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Individuals with COPD begin to experience increased breathlessness and a cough that doesn’t go away. Both of these signs are not normal signs of aging; that’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about taking a spirometry test (breathing test) to measure the health of your lungs if you have any of these additional symptoms:

  • Chronic coughing (both with and without sputum),
  • Wheezing,
  • Tightness in your chest.

If you have any of the symptoms above, the first step is to take the COPD Risk Screener at The screener - a brief, five-question survey – can help you determine if you are at risk of developing COPD. Take those results to your doctor for a possible diagnosis so a management program can begin. Remember that the earlier one begins treatment, the better it is for your lungs and for maintaining the quality of your breathing.

After being diagnosed with COPD, it is important to be tested for an inherited or genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1). Alpha-1 is not a disease. It is a disorder that increases the risk of having COPD, as well as other conditions. Alpha-1 is the major genetic risk factor for COPD at this time. Studies are underway to find other genetic factors that can increase the risk of having COPD.

Diagnosing Alpha-1 requires only a simple blood test. If you have Alpha-1, or if other causes have played an important role in the development of your lung disease, you may require treatments targeted at these other conditions. (For more information about Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, visit the Alpha-1 Foundation’s website at or AlphaNet at

The COPD Foundation’s DRIVE4COPD Campaign, the largest public health initiative aimed at raising awareness and taking action in support of COPD, is focused on promoting early diagnosis through risk screening. Take the DRIVE Risk Screener at To date, more than 2.6 million Americans have assessed their risk for COPD through this screener.

If you are a smoker, you know you should quit. Getting COPD is just one more reason why you should quit smoking today.  Stay healthy out there!

For more information on the COPD Foundation or DRIVE4COPD, please visit

Comments (5)

Jeanne Hamrick

Jeanne G. Hamrick is Director of Marketing and Communications at the COPD Foundation in Washington, DC.

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I have often wondered about what was on the floor of the trailers we have to sweep out all the time. I have hauled some pretty nasty stuff over the years and seen my share of leaky bags and super sacks that end up not getting cleaned up very well. I keep telling myself I need to get a respirator of some sort, but it always ends up not happening.

December 02, 2012 8:37:16 AM

A great reminder to all of us about the dangers from what we breathe. I was never a smoker, but truck drivers are exposed to some many health hazards that we are all at risk. I transported gasoline for 12 years so I've inhaled my share of harmful fumes, not to mention the exhaust around truck stops.

November 21, 2012 7:12:47 AM

I used to be a very heavy smoker and then a series of events happened where I kept seeing people with severe cases of COPD and FINALLY the light bulb went on and I was able to quit smoking. It was not an easy process and something I never want to go through again.

November 20, 2012 4:35:33 AM

Like so many other chronic diseases and illnesses, exercise and good diet can prevent this as well. Precautionary measures in dusty environments should be taken as well, no matter what type of freight you are hauling. Think of some of the locations you could be loading as a dry van driver (how about super sacks of various oxide materials, these places are extremely dangerous and hazardous to a driver's lungs!) Exposure to chemicals and toxins as well can be a factor in developing COPD. As a former EMT, I treated and transported a lot of COPD patients, and also have had family with the disease. Anything that can remove the risk of contracting it is well worth doing.

November 19, 2012 17:13:29 PM

Prior to hauling dry van and freight, I was involved in hauling cement and fly ash in bulk pneumatic tankers. These particular cargo choices happened to have a high rate of COPD instances as well. What shocked me was the lack of precautionary measures taken by drivers. Always one for safety, I purchased a particulate respirator to avoid inhaling any of the cement particles in the air at various plants I delivered to.

November 19, 2012 11:13:15 AM