Every day in the United States of America truck drivers move over $700.4 billion worth of goods. The trucking industry is a very critical component to keep the U.S. economy moving. There are over 55,000 pharmacies in the United States, within just a few days, those pharmacies would quickly run out of medicine if there were no more truck drivers. Truck drivers are essential workers, when a natural disaster strikes the United States, it’s the truck driver that is one of the first groups to leap into action to begin providing resources to the emergency rescue and relief efforts.
Truck drivers are 5th on the list of highest risk for work related suicide. The stress factors for a truck driver are extremely high, for many, their paycheck depends on them getting a load delivered on time. If the truck driver experiences a mechanical breakdown, a flat tire, or bad weather conditions, these types of events can upset the schedule of the delivery. If you are an owner operator and you blow an engine that can easily be over $20,000 you have to come up with to get back on the road, if the wheels aren’t spinning you aren’t earning. Sometimes a trucker can get a rental truck to move some loads while his / her truck is in the shop, but again that is another expense. Also some truck drivers live in their truck, if your truck is down for a week due to an engine replacement, where are you going to live? Do you have a way to get home, do you have to live in a motel for a week, which again would be another expense on top of the truck repairs, and these are all stress factors truck drivers face each and every day.
When it comes to maintaining mental and physical health the truck driver is at a rather large disadvantage. Due to truck drivers always being on the move finding and accessing quality healthcare is a real challenge for most. Another disadvantage for the truck driver is the lack of a good support system, many truck drivers can spend days on the road away from family and friends, they work and sleep irregular hours, and all of these factors play into the difficulty of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while trying to earn a dollar.
I found some interesting numbers from a study done in 2012 – here is a link to the article that I read: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22757596/
Data was collected from a random sample of 316 male truckers between the ages of 23 and 76 at a large truck stop located within a 100-mile radius of Greensboro, North Carolina. They used a self-administered 82-item questionnaire. Surveyed truckers were found to have significant issues affecting their mental health: Loneliness (27.9%), Depression (26.9%), Chronic sleep disturbances (20.6%), Anxiety (14.5%), other emotional problems (13%).
Another article I found about a different study conducted on the trucking industry summarized the following results. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23324711/
Respondents were mainly full-time, long-haul drivers with over 5 years of experience, and who spent over 17 days on the road per month. While almost 75% described their health as good, 83.4% were overweight/obese, 57.9% had sleeping disturbances, 56.3% fatigue, 42.3% musculoskeletal disorders, and about 40% cardiovascular disease concerns. About 33% had no health insurance, 70% had no regular healthcare visits, 24.4% could not afford insurance, and 42.1% took over-the-counter drugs when sick, while 20.1% waited to reach home for medical care. The conclusion of the study determined the trucking occupation places drivers at high risk for poor health outcomes. Prospective studies are needed to delve into how continued exposure to trucking influences the progression of disease burden.
Below are some snippets from an article I read about how fleets can support the drivers mental health awareness. The article can be read for further detail at this link: https://www.ttnews.com/articles/fleets-can-support-drivers-mental-health-through-awareness-communication
The article states that medical professionals are seeing the depression rate among truckers is nearly double the national average. “That alone is alarming because depression is correlated to suicide, and suicide is a leading cause of death.” said Kirleen Neely, psychotherapist and CEO at San Antonio-based Logistics Mental Health. “Suicide is especially a concern for male-dominated industries such as trucking because nearly 70% of people who die by suicide are male”, Neely said. “Suicide rarely occurs because of one issue, but mental health conditions are a factor, CDC reports. Depression and anxiety are top issues among truckers, closely followed by post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Sadly the trucking industry is not getting enough attention when it comes to a driver’s safety and overall health, there is a lot of work to be done to advocate for the trucking industry to make sure the truck drivers are taking care of their physical and mental health. Truck drivers are just like all of us, they are someone’s father or mother, someone’s son or daughter, they have feelings too, they feel pain, they grieve the loss of a loved one no different than we do. So the next time you see a truck driver maybe lean over and offer a kind word to them, let them know you appreciate what they do for all of us. A smile and a kind word has never hurt anyone, but I bet it’s saved a life, or has offered a sliver of hope more times than we know.
Additional Reference and Resources for this article: https://www.pridetransport.com/news-and-events/to-end-it-all-american-truck-driver-suicide