Driving a truck is a demanding job involving long hours and strenuous work. Drivers face several health hazards at rates that are often higher than other jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2019, tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers had the second-highest rate of days away from work among all occupations. The statistic for days away from work includes injuries and illnesses. The trucking industry also leads in the number of fatal occupational injuries, according to BLS data. The very nature of the job requires drivers to sit for long periods of time, which contributes to the risk of injury and illness. Fortunately, there are many ways for truck drivers to prevent injuries and illnesses. The following are some of the injuries and illnesses commonly found in the trucking industry:
- Musculoskeletal disorders affecting the back, neck, or arms
- Fractures or broken bones
- Head injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Repetitive stress injuries
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that truck drivers are twice as likely to be smokers compared to workers in other occupations. Drivers who smoke are at an increased risk for heart disease, lung cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, leukemia, emphysema, and stroke.
How Do Truck Drivers Suffer Injuries?
The job of a truck driver is many faceted. The driver is not just there to pilot the vehicle, it is the driver’s responsibility to see that the truck is properly loaded as a balanced load is crucial for safe transport. The loading and unloading of the truck, often under tight time constraints, can lead to sprains and strains of the back, neck, and arms. Over time, these musculoskeletal disorders can develop into serious problems, such as herniated discs or shoulder rotator cuff injuries.
Loading a truck also requires working in tight spaces in awkward postures, which is another cause of overexertion injuries. Loading docks are at the height of the trailer and a fall from the dock can seriously injure a driver. It is also possible to slip and fall when entering or exiting the cab of the truck. Head and neck injuries from falls can force drivers to miss work to recover or make it impossible to continue a career on the road. Drivers can also be struck by certain objects, such as boxes, pallets, or cartons falling from above.
Another vital aspect of driving a truck is performing maintenance checks. Drivers spend hours on the road covering thousands of miles and must maintain their trucks to high safety standards. The sheer size of a tractor-trailer’s wheels and other parts can make maintenance a heavy lifting job. Changing spare tires after a blow out or putting on tire chains can result in back or knee sprains for the driver.
Truck accidents are unfortunately responsible for more than half of all truck driver fatalities and most accidents are caused by drivers of passenger vehicles. The massive weight of a truck requires longer stopping distances and the even the most experienced driver may not be able to avoid a collision with another vehicle that loses control. Truck rollovers or jack-knife accidents can leave a driver with life-altering injuries.
Life in the Cab
Spending hours in the cab of a truck has many health risks. Constant sitting means drivers have little chance to get the exercise that can help keep them healthy. Nutritious food choices are limited to what a truck stop contains. The result is that many truck drivers are obese and suffer from illnesses related to inactivity and bad nutrition, such as diabetes and hypertension. These two illnesses put drivers at further risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Diabetics can also lead to blindness and low-extremity amputations.
Sitting and using the same muscle groups to perform the same motions can cause repetitive stress injuries in truck drivers. Tendonitis is a very common repetitive stress injury where the tendons that connect muscle to bone become inflamed from overuse. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects the wrist and forearm area and can make even simple daily tasks painful and difficult. Bursitis refers to inflammation of the bursae or sacs of fluid that cushion the areas between bone, muscle, tendons, and skin. Bursitis can occur in many joint areas, such as the shoulder, hip, or ball of the foot. Symptoms of repetitive stress injuries include numbness, tingling, swelling, pain, and redness.
How can I Prevent Illness and Injury as a Truck Driver?
There are many things truck drivers can do to prevent common injuries and illnesses. Because so many injuries arise out of overexertion, it is important that drivers get enough rest and sleep. This is when the body has a chance to repair itself. Hours of Service rules regulate how long truck drivers can be on the road before they must stop and rest. Sticking with these rules is vital for both health reasons and preventing accidents related to fatigue.
Being aware of ergonomic principles can also prevent many injuries. Always use good techniques for any physical part of the job, including:
- Sitting with good posture in the cab
- Stretching and warming up before doing any heavy lifting
- Lifting with the legs first
- Keeping the arms close to the body when lifting heavy objects
- Using a back brace for support, if necessary
- Avoiding awkward postures, especially any that involve twisting or bending to do a task
- Never forcing the body beyond its capabilities
It is also important for drivers to look after their general health to avoid injuries and disease by performing the following:
- Exercising before long periods spent sitting in the cab. There are many exercises that do not require any equipment. Muscles can be kept in shape with resistance bands that take up little to no room to store.
- Making good nutrition choices, staying hydrated with water, and keeping a supply of healthy snacks in the cab
- Not smoking or quitting smoking
Can Truck Drivers Be Compensated for Their Injuries?
Truck drivers who have a work-related injury or illness and who are not independent contractors can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits with their employer. These benefits cover the cost of medical treatment and wages lost during time taken off work for recovery. Disability payments are available for workers who are temporarily or permanently disabled. Dependents of truck drivers who suffer a fatal accident can receive death benefits.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Advocate for Injured Workers
If you have a work-related injury or illness, our experienced Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP will review your case and obtain the compensation you deserve. Call 856-761-3773 today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent injured workers throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken.