Trucking-related injuries are on the rise. Drivers face risk of accidents while driving and also from slips and falls outside the cab. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, the rate of injury in 2013 was 322.8 per 10,000 workers compared to 99.9 per 10,000 in all industries. In 2012 the rate was 279.6 per 10,000 for truckers, compared to 102.3 per 10,000 in all industries.
Why the increase in truck driver injury rates? For starters, there are more new drivers on the road. In 2013 there were 1,585,300 full time workers, up from 1,556,510 in 2012. And less experience tends to lead to more mistakes.
Another reason for the high rate of incidents is that truckers have substantial risks when they are off the road as well. Besides driving goods from point A to point B, the job description includes inspecting trailers, keeping the truck and equipment clean and in good working order, and often loading and unloading product. There are just as many risks when the driver is outside the cab as when inside. Inclement weather, poor lighting, and bursts of physical exertion lead to tumbles, falls, and injuries that mean time away from work, lost income, and lost business.
Tractor-trailer truck drivers were among the occupations with the highest number of days-away-from-work cases reported in 2013, accounting for 5% of all private sector cases in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers required a median of 22 days away from work to recuperate from their injuries or illnesses, up from 19 days in 2012.
Truck drivers also face a higher-than-average rate of fatalities. The number of fatal injuries in truck transportation in 2013 was 461 fatalities, which is lower than 2012 but still accounts for 10.5% of all workplace fatalities.
Such risk for injury and death leads to the need for comprehensive insurance coverage. Who pays when a trucker is injured or killed? Do independent contractors fall under workers compensation? Part 2 of this series addresses owner-operators and how to choose appropriate coverage.