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A matter of safety? The reality behind the lifestyle of the professional trucker

The FMCSA has been busy regulating America’s professional truck drivers. Public Safety has often been cited as the number one reason for creating and enforcing their movement. What many do not understand is that professional truck drivers face increasing health risks. Drivers are subjected to long work hours, limited hourly driving, loading and unloading with no hourly compensation. Truck drivers face a lifestyle filled with high-stress work environments.

As a result, truck drivers are at risk of developing long-term debilitating illnesses. For example, long driving hours, the inability to exercise and long hours away from their homes, increases the likelihood of illness and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and mental illness. In a study conducted by Shattell, et al, drivers reported that the trucking profession was one of the most dangerous occupations in the country (562). In addition, the amount of hours on the road, the time spent in traffic and the attitudes of drivers in cars added more stress to their already stressful jobs (563). Furthermore, the dangers of being shot at or robbed compounded these effects. The mental stability of a truck driver deteriorates with the conditions around them (564). Mental stress, combined with long work hours and a poor diet makes a recipe for disastrous results regarding safety.

Safety is a constant issue when it comes to hauling freight across American highways. Mental stability and the ability to stay focused at all times are essential. Nafukho, Hinton and Graham maintain that there is a cause and effect between maintaining a safe working environment and the added stress that drivers come under on the road (65). Not only are drivers under stress from their surrounding working environment, but also from how they are paid. Since drivers are paid by the mile, they are ‘encouraged’ to drive faster and longer (69). It was found that when drivers were paid by the hour or load, stress factors were reduced. This resulted in fewer accidents (79). Driving longer hours is a problem regarding safety, which is why truck drivers are federally regulated in this function.

While most jobs pay a salary or hourly wage, truck drivers are paid by the mile. In addition, time constraints are placed on drivers in order to ensure timely delivery of freight. Inclement weather, such as heavy rain or snow, tornadoes or high wind can result in a driver falling behind schedule. Furthermore, rush hour traffic, traffic accidents and other unforeseen events also cause delays. Since most drivers are only paid on what miles you drive, the fourteen hour clock drives your pay.

As result, truck drivers are under constant stress. Since drivers are under strict time constraints, they do not take the time to eat properly or exercise. High stress factors, improper eating habits, sitting for long periods of time with no movement is a great recipe for disaster, health-wise. Better payment alternatives, improvements at the dock and less time on the road will help to improve public safety and better driver health.


Shattell, Mona, Yorghos Apostolopoulos, Sevil S¨onmez, and Mary Griffin. "Occupational Stressors and the Mental Health of Truckers." Ebsco. Issues in Mental Health Nursing. September, 2010. 31(9). Retreived from Ebsco 15 Nov. 2011. 31(9). <>.

Nafukho, F. M., Hinton, B. E., and Graham, C. M. (2007). “A Study of Truck Drivers and their Job Performance Regarding Highway Safety”. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 20(1), 65-78. Ebsco host. Retrieved 14 Nov. 2011


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