Trucking is a dangerous industry. Tractor-trailer drivers have the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses that require days off from work across all occupations. Many people think that trucker safety is only about preventing crashes. But there are other dangers that are mostly invisible.
No one thinks of a truck cab as having plenty of space. With the push to make vehicles more fuel efficient, trucks are getting even smaller. This means cramped quarters for drivers. Taller-than-average drivers can suffer musculoskeletal injuries from being forced to stoop in constrained spaces.
Technology has led to big increases in productivity across the trucking industry. But it also causes repetitive-use injuries. Drivers must input data using small keyboards or touch screens without enough space or wrist support. This has led to a rise in carpal tunnel syndrome in drivers, even though most people only associate the condition with office workers.
There are some things drivers can do to protect themselves. Changing your seat position at least once an hour can prevent injuries. So can moving your hands frequently. Seat suspension also makes a difference. If it’s too soft, your spine can be damaged if the seat hits the floor on a bad road.
The Hazards Of Sitting
Health experts have warned about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle for decades. But given the nature of a truck driver’s job, long periods of sitting are unavoidable. An article published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 86 percent of truck drivers are obese.
We’re all familiar with the side effects of obesity. Hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory illness are just a few. Regulators are also giving sleep apnea increased attention. This obesity-related disorder can disrupt sleep cycles so severely that some drivers could be in danger of nodding off at the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that as many as 28 percent of commercial driver’s license holders have sleep apnea.
The Healthy Trucking Association of America has a website for connecting drivers with resources for lowering their BMI.
Danger On The Road
No one is immune to the dangers of theft and robbery. Because almost 100% of retail merchandise is delivered by truck, tractor-trailers make lucrative targets.
Cargo theft is a multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise in the United States. As of 2013, the average stolen shipment was valued at $300,000. Firms are using tools like GPS tracking and stronger partnerships with law enforcement to fight cargo theft.
Armed robbery is another hazard on our roads. 859 trucks were robbed in 2009, up from 767 trucks in 2008. Susan Chandler, executive director of the ATA Safety Management Council, has suggestions for preventing armed robberies. “Drivers need to remember a few things like, don’t leave the tractor-trailer unlocked, don’t leave keys in the vehicle, don’t leave the vehicle unattended, and if you must leave it, then leave it in a visible location.”
There are tools and resources to help drivers stay healthy and safe at work. Awareness is key. And general tips like eating right, moving your body, and staying alert benefit not just drivers, but people in all industries.
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