In the truck transportation industry in 2002, workers averaged 39.7 hours a week, compared with an average of 38.5 hours in warehousing and storage, and 33.9 for all private industries.
The U.S. Department of Transportation governs work hours and other working conditions of truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. For example, a long-distance driver generally cannot work more than 60 hours in any 7-day period. Many drivers, particularly on long runs, work close to the maximum time permitted because employers usually compensate them based on the number of miles or hours they drive. Drivers frequently travel at night, on holidays, and weekends to avoid traffic delays and to deliver cargo on time.
Truck drivers must cope with a variety of working conditions including variable weather and traffic conditions, boredom, and fatigue. Many truck drivers, however, enjoy the independence and lack of supervision found in long-distance driving. Local truck drivers often have regular routes or assignments that allow them to return home in the evenings.
Improvements in roads and trucks are reducing stress and increasing the efficiency of long-distance drivers. Many advanced trucks are equipped with refrigerators, televisions, and beds for the driver’s convenience. Included in some of these state-of-the-art vehicles is a satellite link with the company headquarters. Drivers can get directions, weather reports, and other important communications in a matter of seconds. In the event of bad weather or mechanical problems, truckers can communicate with dispatchers to discuss delivery schedules and courses of action. Dispatchers can also track the location of the truck and monitor fuel consumption and engine performance.
Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers usually work indoors, although they occasionally make repairs on the road. Minor cuts, burns, and bruises are common, but serious accidents can be avoided when the shop is kept clean and orderly and safety practices observed. Service technicians and mechanics handle greasy and dirty parts and may stand or lie in awkward positions to repair vehicles and equipment. They usually work in well-lighted, heated, and ventilated areas, but some shops are drafty and noisy.
Laborers, and hand freight, stock, and material movers usually work indoors, though they may do occasional work on trucks and forklifts outside. Some occasions warrant heavy lifting and other physical labor.
Safety is a major concern of the truck transportation and warehousing industry. The operation of trucks, lifts, and other technically advanced equipment can be dangerous without proper training and supervision. Efforts are underway to standardize the training programs to make drivers more efficient and effective truck operators. Truck drivers already must adhere to federally mandated certifications and regulations. Federal mandates require drivers to submit to drug and alcohol tests as a condition of employment and more employers require periodic checks while on the job.
In 2002, work-related injuries and illnesses in the trucking and warehousing industry averaged 7.0 per 100 full-time workers, higher than the 5.3-incidence rate for the entire private sector. About 3 out of 4 on-the-job fatalities in the truck transportation and warehousing industry resulted from motor vehicle accidents.