Is truck driving dangerous? The short answer is, yes.
Commercial trucking is one the most dangerous occupations in the United States. With 745 deaths on the job in 2015, the most fatalities based on pure volume, trucking can be deadly.
Logically, most of the injuries/deaths are a result of traffic collisions.
More hours on the road means more chances to make a mistake. Commercial drivers represent one of the largest labor pools in the country. While other tasks are more dangerous per worker, trucker deaths have become a serious problem.
Why Do Trucker Deaths Happen?
There are a combination of factors that contribute to commercial driver fatalities. The first is obvious. Long haul driving has natural difficulties.
Operating such a huge piece of machinery, in tough terrain, and inclement weather, will never be easy. Factor in the human element of other people on the road, and it’s obvious to see how accidents happen. More time on the road equals more accidents.
Truck collisions are extremely violent as they involve incredible amounts of mass. While these are the purely logistical reasons for trucking accidents, there are a variety of conditions that combine to make driving a dangerous work environment.
Speed or Safety
Truck drivers are often made to choose between the two.
Delivery deadlines are a crucial part of hauling. Companies and customers rely on their reputation to drop off the goods at a specific time. For some materials (food, ice, medical supplies, hazardous materials), prompt delivery is not a request but an absolute necessity.
So when given the choice between getting there on time and getting there safely, many drivers wrongly choose the former. This means they are often speeding, or staying awake for extended periods. Driving a truck is difficult at any speed, but the higher rates decrease reaction time and make it nearly impossible to stop a loaded big rig.
Likewise, sleep deprivation is a classic trucking trope. Sleeping at the wheel is extremely problematic as losing focus for a split second can be enough to cause a massive pile-up.
Not to exacerbate a greatly over exaggerated theme, but some drivers turn to stimulants to stay awake. The negative health side-effects are bad enough, but driving under the influence puts everyone in harm’s way.
Besides speeding and sleeping at the wheel, there are more problems with trucking. Relatively low pay and high physical stress, creates a climate of high turnover.
That means more inexperienced drivers on the road. There’s really no substitute for time behind the wheel. However, years at the helm of a big rig can be hazardous as well.
Trucking is a very sedentary profession. Long periods of sitting with little to no movement or exercise can lead to a myriad of health issues. The obesity rate for truck drivers is higher than that of an average citizen.
Mostly due to the drawbacks of the job, but also due to a low quality of food. Most operators are forced to eat fast food and other low quality options near the roadside. This means mealtimes are usually sporadic and unhealthy.
Couple this low standard of health, with a lack of vacation time, an inconsistent home address and you’ll find it’s nearly impossible to receive necessary health/dental care.
Lack of time to sleep is a known issue, and aside from an overhaul of the corporations that value profits over people, it seems unlikely to be resolved.
When to sleep is almost as big of an issue as where?
Truck stops can be hard places to get a wink. Drivers are vulnerable in their cabins, and security doesn’t seem to be a high priority.
A lack of spaces to park also leads to drivers being shuffled in and out of spots after a few hours. This leads to some drivers sleeping on the side of the interstate absolutely unprotected and far from aid.
While this can be arguably better than falling asleep at the wheel, it is still less than ideal. A low barrier of entry for new drivers leads many to not speak out about subpar situations and equipment. It is always best to err on the side of caution but that is often easier said than done.
Can It Be Fixed?
Driving long distances under high stress will always be dangerous. Human beings are simply not perfect. There will be accidents. Although, there are many ways to put your best foot forward.
Always make sure to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before embarking on your journey. If anything seems unsafe, realize you are putting thousands of people at risk every day.
Keep that seat belt buckled and keep all lights functioning well. Take all precautions when changing lanes or merging.
These are all things you can control as a responsible driver. Unfortunately, there are other things beyond your scope.
Your employer’s adherence to a schedule should not force you to drive in poor situations. If at any point you feel unsure, pull over and get some rest or wait for that intense weather to pass. Your bosses should appreciate and respect the fact you put safety above all else.
Try to get up and move around as much as possible. Keep your cabin stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and do your best to cook whenever you get the chance.
After dinner, try to find a safe and secure rest stop. Bottom line is if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. Use your common sense and while you are easily replaceable, that also means new jobs are always on the horizon.
Finding a new job is easier than finding a new life. If your work environment is unsafe, it’s time to start working somewhere else.
The Future of Truck Driving
Making trucking safer would require a new dedication on a few levels.
Companies would have to be incentivized to prioritize safety. This could be some sort of bonus for safe trips, not fast ones.
An institutional commitment to provide safe sleeping areas for haulers would be an extremely positive move. Keeping sleepy drivers off the road is in all of our best interests. A good way to do that is by making it easier for them to find a place to get some safe shuteye.
All drivers could benefit from extreme caution when passing or maneuvering around large trucks.
Transporting goods is a necessity. So if you’re someone looking for work, trucking can be a great option to start making some decent money.
It’s crucial to understand the risks before getting too invested.
What do you do to ensure safety on the road? Share in the comments.