Trucking, especially long-haul trucking, is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The on-the-job fatality rate for truck drivers is 11 times the national average, according to figures from 2016. One in three long-haul truckers will be in a serious road accident at some point in their careers, say officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
As injury lawyers who represent truckers and motorists, we make it our business to know what truck drivers are facing on a daily basis. Researchers are frequently releasing new statistics that confirm what truckers have known for a long time: their job is hazardous, physically and psychologically.
Below, we discuss some of the chief issues long-haul truckers deal with.
Truckers face high levels of stress on a daily basis that lead to high blood pressure, which creates hypertension. Smoking and poor diet, both common features of the trucking lifestyle, cause hypertension as well. Over time, hypertension can lead to heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
Metabolic disorders include obesity and diabetes, both common issues for long-haul truckers. Long-haul truckers are on the road for weeks at a time, and their schedules make eating home-cooked or wholesome food extremely difficult. Truckers are forced to eat whatever is available at the truck stop, which typically means fast, sugary, and greasy meals.
Truckers have to contend with poor food options on top of a job requiring 10 hours of sitting per day. As a result, many truckers end up developing insulin resistance: a cause of obesity and a risk factor for diabetes.
Sleep disorders like sleep apnea are a common problem, but the risk factors for sleep apnea read like a list of common trucker problems: obesity, smoking, and alcohol use. While there is a genetic component, a trucker’s lifestyle lends itself to the worsening of sleep apnea symptoms.
The deeper problem is that sleep apnea is dangerous for other drivers too. People with sleep apnea are marked by lower reaction times and poorer focus, which is deadly behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer. Truckers have to undergo an initial physical that checks for sleep apnea to get their CDL, but it doesn’t account for truckers who develop sleep disorders from the rigors of the road.
Neck, Back, & Hip Injuries
Disorders like trucker’s elbow, trucker syndrome (aka “dead butt syndrome”), and other musculoskeletal issues are the direct result of sitting for long hours in the cab day after day. The rumbling and physical rigors of operating a truck compound the long-term health risks of long sedentary periods. Over time, truckers often develop injuries to their hips, back, and neck.
The rumbling and impact of operating a truck is absorbed through the feet and calves, often leading to temporary numbness. Due to numbness, truckers are prone to falling out of the cab at the end of the shift, which can lead to long-term injuries. Even though truck cabs sit only four feet above the concrete, a bad fall could still render a trucker unable to work for months.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
We mentioned that a third of long-haul truckers will get in a serious accident at some point in their lives. However, truck drivers also witness an enormous number of horrifying accidents. Their long hours on the road means truckers are exposed to fatal collisions far more than the average person, and those experiences take a toll. Researchers are finding that collision victims and witnesses suffer the effects of post-traumatic stress over time. And that’s just from one accident.
Many truckers who experience or participate in multiple accidents deal with enormous amounts of post-traumatic stress.
Of course, the effects of all these problems—poor diet, isolation, untreated stress, physical ailments—often result in depression. Long-haul truckers report higher rates of depression than the general population, and researchers attribute it to the hardships of their jobs.
All told, truckers must contend with an enormous amount of stress and injury. However, they don’t need to contend with it alone. Driving-related injuries are considered work injuries for truckers and are therefore covered by workers’ compensation, and accidents caused by employer negligence are covered by even more. All truckers need to do is speak with a New Orleans injury lawyer to discuss their recovery options; let’s help you get back on your feet.
Call (504) 608-3211 for a free consultation today.