In a previous blog we reviewed the most dangerous industries for workers, reporting that the trucking industry and transportation generally have a significant majority of work-related incidents that cause injury or death. Other dangerous industries with smaller workforces include fishing and farming. Only construction and its allied occupations are close to transportation when it comes to on-the-job dangers.
At the conclusion of the last blog post on this subject, on July 20th, we asked whether people in dangerous occupations such as these were paid for the risks they took. Not surprisingly, the answer is a resounding “no.” In addition to low pay, truck drivers endure unpleasant working conditions and have a very unhealthy lifestyle.
Being a truck driver creates a wide range of risks, from occupational illness from the sedentary work to fatal injuries in a truck crash. It is indeed one of the deadliest occupations, sustaining more than 12 percent of all work-related deaths in the U.S., according to one source.
The lifestyle of most long-haul truck drivers is particularly unhealthy. They seldom eat properly, relying on high-sugar, high-fat pre-packaged snacks from truck stops. Then they finally stop driving for the day, they often eat a big meal right before going to bed. The result: 86 percent of truck drivers are overweight, much more than the general population.
Compounding their unhealthy lifestyles, truckers are seldom able to obtain regular and routine medical care because they usually work six days a week. This means that they seldom seek treatment for minor problems, problems that could escalate into major ones.
Many drivers suffer from depression and other mood disorders, in part because driving is such a lonely occupation. Not surprisingly, there turnover rate among truck drivers is high, and recently the vacancies created have often been filled by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who often bring their already fragile physical and mental health to the job.
All these negatives come with another high price tag: very low pay. A 2012 report stated that the average annual wage of truck drivers was around $38,000. That translates to an hourly rate of $8.70, given the large number of hours drivers work. It’s even below the minimum wage rate in a few states.
Is this worth the risk of a fatal accident or serious illness? It may be to some, but by almost any calculation, truck drivers are underpaid.