According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, one out of every six workers killed on the job is a commercial truck driver. Truckers are three times more likely to suffer serious injuries while working than the average American worker. With a majority of these injuries and deaths caused by truck accidents, it is clear that tractor trailers can be extremely dangerous to operate on the road.
Truckers Face More Than Just Road Dangers
Just like any occupation, tractor-trailer operators face a number of risks and dangers while on the job. Most people would associate these dangers with a trucker being behind the wheel on an open road. Drowsy driving, inattention, and even just going a little too fast on a narrow road can all be deadly for a truck driver. They are required to operate a large, 80,000+ pound vehicle at a high attention level—at nearly all times and for long stretches. This alone makes the job very dangerous.
Is it just the open road that poses a threat to truckers, though? Not necessarily. Tractor-trailer drivers rank in the top three of workers suffering spinal disc, nerve, or joint injuries—and not because of an accident. Overexertion from repeatedly getting in and out of the large truck, moving large loads, and long periods of sitting in the same position can all lead to these serious injuries.
They are also susceptible to slips, trips, and falls—especially when exiting the truck cabin or moving things out of the back of the trailer. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries actually reports around 25 deaths a year due to falls, trips, or slips in the trucking industry—often due to tarping a load in dangerous conditions.
Consistent Increase in Trucker Deaths Since 2009
The threat of being in a truck crash becomes more serious as the number of vehicles on the road every year increases. 2014 saw more than 760 tractor-trailer driver fatalities while on the job—the fifth consecutive year that this number has risen.
While The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s reports a downward trend in trucker fatalities since 1995, the percentage of truck driver fatalities over the last few years is upward. Some professionals believe the rigid 14-hour on-duty limit and other strict regulations discourages truckers from taking mid-day rest breaks, which could help them remain fresh and attentive on the job. Other issues, from road design to aggressive passenger vehicle drivers, can also put truck drivers at risk. Simply put, truckers don’t appear to be benefiting as much from safety improvements on the road as other drivers are.