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How job stress leads commercial truckers to make bad choices

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

Quite a few people mistakenly believe that truck drivers have an easy job. After all, you probably drive for an hour or more every day just to get to work and back, to say nothing of the obligations you may have if you have children involved in extracurricular activities. Just because you don’t see driving as a difficult task doesn’t mean that there aren’t major stressors involved in commercial trucking.

Tasks that may not seem difficult to do for one hour may be painful or exhausting to do for eight, 10 or even 13 hours straight. Additionally, unlike many other career paths, commercial driving is intensely isolating, as drivers work alone for hours or even days at a time.

The stress, both physical and emotional, caused by commercial driving tasks can lead truckers to make bad choices that cause crashes.

Commercial drivers may reach out for human connection

There’s a stereotype in Hollywood that commercial truckers are likely to pull over and stop for hitchhikers. While most truckers will prioritize their own safety above the desire to socialize, the fact that truck drivers appear in movies as individuals eager to talk to someone should be a red flag for one of the biggest stressors of the job.

Working for long hours can leave people feeling alienated from their loved ones and socially isolated. Even if most workers go all day without seeing their family, they still get to interact with their co-workers, managers or customers. Truckers are often completely alone while they drive across the country.

Modern mobile technology has made it easier than ever for people to stay in contact, which may prove to be too tempting for truck drivers at work. Although federal regulations prohibit the manual use of mobile devices while driving a commercial vehicle, many drivers will still hold their phones to talk to their loved ones, or even read or type text messages or emails at the wheel.

Other forms of distraction can seem like minor issues

Quite a few people will eat when they feel stressed, bored or otherwise unhappy. For truck drivers alone for much of their day, that could be any point during their shift. Unfortunately, eating at the wheel is a risky activity, as is grooming or other forms of non-digital distraction.

Still, with so many hours of driving to perform, a commercial driver may start to do any number of other manual or mental tasks while driving. Unfortunately, anything that takes their hands off the wheel or their minds off the job of driving puts people at risk. Distraction is reportedly a factor in about 70% of all commercial vehicle collisions.

Drivers may seek to numb themselves

Commercial drivers often rely on stimulants like caffeine to stay awake and alert on the road. They may then need to use sleeping pills, alcohol or even illegal drugs like marijuana to relax and fall asleep after a long shift. If any of those substances remain in a driver’s system when they get behind the wheel again, they will pose a substantial risk to everyone on the road with them.