Livable Cities & Resilient Infrastructure
Trucking life: the challenges of being a trucker PART 2
In a previous article, we explored three challenges of being a truck driver. Part two explores several other difficulties of trucking life: parking and health.
We recognize truckers as essential workers. Without their tireless contributions, businesses and basic services would not be possible. However, many of the burdens associated with trucking life is not widely understood among the general public.
Let’s take a look at these difficulties in more detail.
Inadequate commercial truck parking
The trucking industry is suffering from a shortage of drivers. More than 2.6 million truck driving positions went unfulfilled around the world in 2021 alone.
One often-overlooked reason for this is inadequate parking, according to NBC news. Industrywide, there is only one parking space for every 11 truckers.
This is problematic, particularly when drivers need to pull over during inclement weather or to rest when fatigue sets in. Rest areas aren’t always open making trucking life even more challenging.
“When truck parking goes south, [drivers] just throw up their hands and say ‘I’m out of here’ and find another job that doesn’t create the stress and anxiety,” said Daniel Murray, vice-president of the American Transportation Research Institute.
A solution to address this issue centers largely on infrastructure development, which will differ among regions and indeed countries. The American Trucking Association has directly appealed to the U.S. Department of Transportation for funding to address the issue.
University of Pennsylvania sociologist and former truck driver, Steve Viscelli has an alternate plan that doesn’t rely on tax-funded initiatives: driver swapping.
His proposal aims to reduce the demand for truck parking spaces without reducing overall freight transport. He suggests linking drivers who are traveling in opposite directions with freight destined for each other’s point of origin. When they cross paths, they can swap trailers and return to their home terminal.
In theory, this system could cut down driving distances by half, while reducing downtime and improving efficiency. But it has not yet been developed or implemented.
Trucker health and diet
Seven in 10 drivers in the U.S. are obese and have an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart diseases, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Long-haul truckers in Europe also struggle to maintain healthy lifestyles. Among 404 truck drivers of 24 nationalities interviewed at truck stops in Germany, only 24% were considered to have a healthy weight.
A significant challenge for drivers is having easy access to inexpensive and healthy food. With long hours on the road in remote locations, drivers often lack options. Many service stations offer little beyond snacks, soft drinks, and junk food.
Since parking can be a struggle, accessing restaurants and supermarkets can also be difficult.
However, some drivers utilize small refrigerators and ovens in their cabs and stock up on food from home before beginning their journey.
Drivers are beginning to demand better choices from service stations including fresh fruit and vegetables.
Drivemayway.com offers recommendations for making healthy dietary choices.
Their number one advice is to plan ahead by packing healthy food and not settling for fast food. Their blog includes meal and snack ideas for drivers to maintain health while providing the necessary energy to stay alert.
Health and safety of truck drivers
Truck drivers serve a vital role in maintaining supply chains across every sector and level. It’s the responsibility of the entire industry, including manufacturers, fleet and shift managers, and the truckers themselves, to work together to improve safety.
According to Stay Metrics, 70% of drivers for carriers leave within the first year. Retention is a massive issue.
With the influx of e-commerce and last-mile delivery services, the industry needs to be attractive to drivers. The well-being of truckers should be a top priority, and we need to find a way to make their job safer and healthier.
Since the gap between the number of available drivers and demand is increasing, investing in truck drivers’ health will provide benefits beyond the industry. It could pave a new model for other sectors to follow by showing how to curtail turnover, attract workers and create a safe and sustainable industry.
For more on this topic, check out our article on the humanity of truck drivers.