Trucks, we share the highways and roadways with them every day as we commute back and forth to work; we get aggravated at them when we’re stuck behind and can’t pass them; they’re indispensable in getting product, food, livestock and pretty much everything we need across the country. The men and women that drive them also have one of the deadliest jobs in America.
Right now the death rate for truck drivers accounts for around 12% of all work related deaths in America.
The reasons why this job is so deadly are many and are not necessarily what you might think.
1. Long hours means that drivers are often sleep deprived. There are laws that say that truck drivers can only drive for 14 hours straight and must then take at least 10 hours off before they start driving again. There are also laws regulating how much they are allowed to work a week. Unfortunately in a job where the driver is paid by the load, not by the hour, these laws are more often than not circumvented and ignored. Additionally, truck drivers are finding it harder and harder to find safe and convenient places to pull over and sleep for the night.
2. Healthy eating and exercise is hard to come by on the road. Truck drivers sit almost all day and most often stop only to eat at truck stops and fast food restaurants simply because that’s what’s available along their routes. This means that among truck drivers 86% are classified as overweight or obese. Many truck drivers are forced to get other jobs when their diet and lack of exercise leads to becoming insulin dependent diabetics. Laws force insulin dependent diabetics to give up driving trucks.
3. Because they are on the road so much, truck drivers often do not take the time to get checkups and schedule doctor visits. Time off work is time they aren’t getting paid for and scheduling doctor visits often means turning down routes that they need in order to pay the bills. Truck drivers tend to “push through” and ignore health symptoms.
4. Isolation and lack of social interaction also leads to a higher than normal rate of depression among truck drivers. This, in turn, leads to additional health problems.
5. Stress of driving all day adds to the problem. Any truck driver will tell you that cars cutting in front of them without giving them enough space to stop is a continuous issue for them. The larger the truck, the more weight they are carrying, the longer it takes for them to stop. Traffic jams, road construction, detours and other roadway problem can often put truck drivers behind schedule adding to the stress of driving for so many hours.
Next time you’re tempted to get irritated because a semi in front of you isn’t accelerating fast enough or because you can’t get around it fast enough, stop and think about how hard it is to do what that truck driver has it. After all, as one truck driver put it “If you don’t like all these trucks on the road, stop buying stuff!”.