How Dangerous Are Those Truck Driving Jobs?

The current rise in unemployment numbers causes everyone to worry about their job status. However, the trucking industry is one place where the future seems bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth of 21 percent for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers over the next decade; which means there will be over 330,000 new trucking jobs by the year 2020. This news will encourage many to consider joining the truck driving workforce, but these potential applicants should know that driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs available.

Truck Driving is a Dangerous Job

There was an increase of five percent in job fatalities for occupations in the transportation and material moving industries in 2011. These occupations account for approximately one out of every four fatal accidents that occur on the job nationally. While there are other occupations that have a higher rate of fatalities, the truck drivers have the greatest overall number of fatalities.

Why Truck Driving is a Dangerous Job

Many point to the hazardous road conditions which truck drivers often face as a reason for the higher number of fatalities. It is true that truck drivers keep rolling in bad weather while others pull over or simply stay home, but the statistics do not support this theory. Traffic fatalities in the Northeast and Midwest parts of the country are lower in the winter than in other seasons. Those areas are prone to difficult winter conditions for the drivers to face like snow or ice on the highways, but somehow it is safer for them. The highest number of fatalities occurs in the summer months in every area of the country. Summer is when more people travel and the highways are much busier. It seems logical that the problem is not the weather, but the increase in traffic. Here are a few methods for reducing the number of fatalities.

1. The states must identify hazardous features and improve the highway design if possible in places where a high rate of fatalities occurs. A better way to provide information to drivers when approaching this kind of area is also helpful.

2. The states need to offer classes for the general public about sharing the road with trucks. These classes should become part of general driver training.

3. States should encourage stricter enforcement of driving laws to get the general public to slow down in high risk areas.

Driver Fatigue and Safety

There are many factors contributing to driver fatigue, and these include constantly changing sleep schedules and being unable to rest effectively in public places due to disturbances. Truck driving is tiring work, and there will always be some fatigue issues. The owner operators must keep moving to make any money. However, there are opportunities for state governments to work with companies and alleviate a few concerns for the sake of the drivers. The current drive and rest regulations do not seem to promote restful sleep for the drivers and proper changes in these would help truckers get more sleep. There are other things the states can do to help the driver fatigue problem.

1. The states or federal government could encourage the building of more truck stops. Drivers report being able to rest better at these places due to less concern over crime and better parking.

2. Many public rest areas only allow two or three hours of rest before waking the drivers and making them move. Increasing the amount of time a commercial driver could stay at a rest area to four hours would help and it costs very little to implement.

3. The states need to make the public rest areas safer for drivers who are resting there. Many drivers report a high rate of crime or other illicit activities in these places.

4. There is a need for larger parking spaces and an overall increase in spaces for the trucks at rest areas. Designating alternative parking areas for trucks using existing spaces would provide some relief to the problem.

Non-Fatal Injuries to Truck Drivers

Truck drivers experience more non-fatal injuries than workers in any other profession. Data from one government study found that truck drivers were 233 percent more likely to have a non-fatal injury on the job than other workers. The majority of these seem to involve back injuries and are a possible consequence of heavy lifting following periods of long-term sitting. The truckers who unload their own trucks experience most of these types of injuries. It is worth noting that a large number of other non-fatal injuries occur in warehousing situations; often involving a trucker being hit by a piece of equipment or falling and injuring themselves. A worker suffering from fatigue and having to unload a truck in an unfamiliar place while also working with strangers seems likely to contribute to the high number of accidents.

The trucking industry is perhaps the only industry that can truly say it is the lifeblood of the country. The American people depend on the owner operators that keep those trucks rolling, and state governments need to do their share to improve driver safety. The states cannot do it alone, and driver associations and trucking companies must also improve working conditions for the drivers. Trucking will always be a tough job, but improving safety and working conditions would help with job turnover and reduce the amount of time drivers miss due to injuries.