When people think of dangerous occupations, they list jobs such as police officer, firefighter and construction worker. However, truck drivers remain one of the most deadly occupations in the United States, with over 800 fatalities in the last year.
From 2011 to 2016, truck driver fatalities rose 11.2 percent, and the number of drivers only continues to grow with the increase of rapid delivery and online shopping. Several factors contribute to a dangerous work environment for truckers.
Physical and mental demands
Driving a truck may not be your first pick for a physical job, but there are several physical components for truck drivers. Most operators unload and load heavy cargo, which is taxing on their bodies. It can even lead to severe back or shoulder pain after years of unloading.
Truck drivers are on the road up to 14 hours a day and usually drive alone. It may lead to depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. A lack of sleep also makes drivers more prone to collisions.
Driving trucks are not only dangerous on the road; it's dangerous at home. Truckers are more likely to have health concerns such as diabetes, sleep apnea, stress-induced disorders and lung problems.
Truck drivers are motivated to drive long trips, risking their safety, because they are paid by the mile instead of the hour. New federal regulations addressed the concern by installing electronic logging devices to track miles for freight trucks.
Drivers are still adjusting to the new tracking system, so productivity for truckers has dipped, which means fewer deliveries for companies and less money for drivers.
Safety equipment inside trucks
Despite the high risks of collision, large trucks are not required to install airbags. It's up to the manufacturer to install airbags in their vehicles. Volvo Trucks North America, a truck manufacturer, is pushing a mandatory standard for airbags in large-scale trucks.
However, the debate between industry experts and car manufacturers continues about the cost-effectiveness of airbags in large freight trucks.
Unfortunately, the risks for truck drivers transfer to other drivers on the road. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, most fatalities in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants because people traveling in smaller vehicles are more vulnerable to accidents.
It's crucial for truck and passenger vehicle drivers to understand the risks of the road and drive attentively while sharing the highway.