Injury dangers faced by truck drivers might be surprising, according to BLS blog

Risks include musculoskeletal disorders, overexertion, slips, trips, and falls

Posted August 19, 2016

Economists, Sean Smith and Patrick Harris at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posted a blog on August 17 pointing out the job hazards for truck drivers including both fatal and nonfatal injuries. BLS employees Nicole Nestorick and Erin Huband also contributed to the post.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, BLS data show that driving a truck is risky in ways you might not expect.

For example, the writers note that:

  • One out of every six American workers killed on the job is a tractor-trailer truck driver.
  • In 2014 alone, 761 tractor-trailer truck drivers were killed while working, which also marks the fifth year in a row that the number of truck driver fatalities has increased.
  • The vast majority of these deaths, 78 percent, were caused by transportation incidents.

Nonfatal injuries

The blog also highlights data on nonfatal injuries stating that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers:

  • Have the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses that require days off from work across all occupations (a total of 55,710 in 2014).
  • Rank sixth among the top occupations with highest incidence rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work, after police officers and sheriffs, firefighters, highway maintenance workers, correctional officers, and nursing assistants.
  • Had nearly one out of every 20 injury and illness cases nationwide that needed time off work to recover.
  • Are three times more likely than the typical American worker to have an injury or illness that required days off from work.

The top two injuries that are most likely to cause tractor-trailer drivers to miss work result from:

  1. Slips, trips, and falls
  2. Overexertion

Workers driving tractor-trailer trucks overexert themselves by:

  • Pushing and pulling containers.
  • Lifting heavy items while loading and unloading the truck.
  • Getting in and out of a large vehicle routinely.

Among all occupations, tractor-trailer truck drivers also ranked No. 3 on the list of workers suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs) that required days off from work in 2014. Overexertion, including repeatedly getting in and out of the truck and assisting with loading and unloading, and prolonged sitting and maintaining the same position (sometimes with poor posture) while driving the truck, are all causes.

Time off work to recover

The blog also discusses how much time drivers miss from work due to being injured. According to the writers, when truck drivers get hurt on the job it takes them longer to recover and they cited the following statistics:

  • Half of all truck drivers required at least 20 days away from work after an incident before returning, compared with all other occupations in which half of all workers returned to work within nine days.
  • Among tractor-trailer truck drivers who had to take days off work due to being injured, 42 percent missed more than a month (31 or more days) of work.

The writers of the blog state that they hope this kind of detailed information will help employers improve conditions for tractor-trailer drivers, as well as empower workers with knowledge about the hazards they’re likely to encounter.

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