Now experts want to find a way to reduce the risk to drivers, and are appealing for fleets to help.
Professional drivers are particularly prone to inactivity and, consequently, ill health. Studies show that unhealthy drivers have more accidents.
Adrian Taylor, professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Exeter, is an expert on the effects of physical activity on mental health and wellbeing.
“People aren’t linking health with accidents,” he told the International Conference on Driver Behaviour and Training in Dublin.
“There’s a high level of poor lifestyles among professional drivers and ill health is linked to driver accidents,” he said.
The latest figures show that 35% of men and 41% of women in the UK fail to take one 30-minute session of moderate exercise a week, while 63% of men and 75% of women do not meet Department of Health guidelines of five sessions of exercise a week.
“You can imagine how inactive UK drivers are, given that they are less likely to be active than the rest of the population,” Prof Taylor said.
“In 1997, a study of coach drivers found that those who did more exercise had fewer accidents. Exercise enhances people’s mood. It enhances quality of sleep, lowers levels of fatigue and increases alertness.”
Prof Taylor proposes structured exercise programmes in the workplace or discounted gym membership for drivers.
“Putting in a shower at the workplace could enable people to commute to work by bike.
"Cars could be equipped with foldaway bikes in the boot and car parks located 15 minutes away from work.”
He appealed for fleets interested in taking part in a study to contact him on 01395 564747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.