Truck driver

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"Trucker" redirects here. For other uses, see Trucker (disambiguation).
A truck driver at work.

A truck driver (commonly referred to as a trucker or driver in the United States and Canada; a truckie in Australia and New Zealand; a lorry driver or driver in Ireland, the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan), is a person who earns a living as the driver of a truck (usually a semi truck, box truck, or dump truck).

Duties and functions[edit]

Truck drivers provide an essential service to industrialized societies by transporting finished goods and raw materials over land, typically to and from manufacturing plants, retail and distribution centers. Truck drivers are also responsible for inspecting their vehicles for mechanical items or issues relating to safe operation. Others, such as driver/sales workers, are also responsible for sales and customer service.

Types[edit]

A Nissan Diesel trucker in Hong Kong.

There are three major types of truck driver employment:

  • Owner-operators (also known as O/Os, or "doublestuffs"[1]) are individuals who own the trucks they drive and can either lease their trucks by contract with a trucking company to haul freight for that company using their own trucks, or they haul loads for a number of companies and are self-employed independent contractors. There are also ones that lease a truck from a company and make payments on it to buy it in two to five years.
  • Company drivers are employees of a particular trucking company and drive trucks provided by their employer.
  • Independent Owner-Operators are those who own their own authority to haul goods and often drive their own truck, possibly owning a small fleet anywhere from 1-10 trucks, maybe as few as only 2 or 3 trucks.

Job categories[edit]

An Isuzu Records Management truck

Both owner operators/owner driver and company drivers can be in these categories.

  • Auto haulers work hauling cars on specially built trailers and require specific skills loading and operating this type of specialized trailer.
  • Boat haulers work moving boats ranging in size from 10-foot-long (3.0 m) bass boats to full-size yachts up to 60 ft long (18 m) using a specialized low boy trailer that can be set up for each size of boat. Boats wider than 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m) wide or 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 m) high have to have a permit to move and are an oversize load.
  • Dry Van drivers haul the majority of goods over highways in large trailers. Contents are generally non perishable goods.
  • Dry Bulk Pneumatic drivers haul bulk sand, salt, and cement, among other things. They have specialized trailers that allow them use pressurized air to unload their product. - Commonly known as Flow Boys among truckers.
  • Flat Bed drivers haul an assortment of large bulky items. A few examples are tanks, steel pipes and lumber. Drivers require the ability to balance the load correctly.
  • LTL drivers or "less than truck load" are usually local delivery jobs where goods are delivered and unloaded by the driver at multiple locations, usually involving the pulling of double or triple trailer combinations.
  • Reefer drivers haul refrigerated or frozen goods.
  • Local drivers work only within the limits of their hometowns or only to nearby towns. They return home nightly.
  • Household Goods drivers, or Bedbuggers haul personal effects for families who are moving from one home to another.
A container truck. Cab-over design.
  • Regional drivers may work over several states near their homes. They are usually away from home for short periods.
  • Interstate drivers (otherwise known as "over the road" or "long-haul" drivers) often cover distances of thousands of miles and are away from home for a week or more. To help keep drivers, companies can employ team drivers.
  • Team drivers are two drivers who take turns driving the same truck in shifts (sometimes husband and wife), or several people in different states that split up the haul to keep from being away from home for such long periods.
  • Tanker drivers (in truck driver slang tanker yankers) haul liquids, such as gasoline (petrol), diesel fuel, milk, & crude oil, and dry bulk materials, such as plastics, sugar, flour, & cement in tanks. Liquid tanker drivers need special driving skills due to the load balance changing from the liquid movement. This is especially true for food grade tankers, which do not contain any baffles and are a single compartment (due to sanitation requirements). Also fuel oil/petroleum drivers require special certifications.
  • Vocational drivers drive a vocational truck such as a dump truck, garbage truck, or cement mixer.
  • Drayage drivers move cargo containers which are lifted on or off the chassis, at special intermodal stations.
  • Bullrack haul livestock locally around their hometowns, or haul regionally all over the USA. The term bullrack comes from a double deck trailer used strictly to haul cattle.

Hours regulations[edit]

Australia[edit]

A trucker and his vehicle.

In Australia, drivers of trucks and truck and trailer combinations with gross vehicle mass greater than 12 tonnes[2] must rest for 30 minutes every 5 hours and stop for 10 hours of sleep for every 14 hours of work (includes driving and non-driving duties). After 72 working hours (not including time spent resting or sleeping) a driver must spend 24 hours away from his/her vehicle. Truck drivers must complete a logbook documenting hours and kilometres spent driving.[3]

Canada[edit]

In Canada, driver hours of service regulations are enforced for any driver who operates a "truck, tractor, trailer or any combination of them that has a gross vehicle weight in excess of 4,500 kg or a bus that is designed and constructed to have a designated seating capacity of more than 24 persons, including the driver."[4] However, there are two sets of hours of service rules, one for above 60th parallel north, and one for below. Below latitude 60 degrees drivers are limited to 14 hours on duty in any 24 hour period. This 14 hours includes a maximum of 13 hours driving time. Rest periods are 8 consecutive hours in a 24 hour period, as well as an additional 2 hour period of rest that must be taken in blocks of no less than 30 minutes.

Additionally, there is the concept of "Cycles." Cycles in effect put a limit on the total amount of time a driver can be on duty in a given period before he must take time off. Cycle 1 is 70 hours in a 7 day period, and cycle 2 is 120 hours in a 14 day period. A driver who uses cycle 1 must take off 36 hours at the end of the cycle before being allowed to restart the cycle again. Cycle 2 is 72 hours off duty before being allowed to start again.

Receipts for fuel, tolls, etc., must be retained as a MTO officer can ask to see them in order to further verify the veracity of information contained in a driver's logbook during an inspection.

European Union[edit]

In the European Union, drivers' working hours are regulated by EU regulation (EC) No 561/2006[5] which entered into force on April 11, 2007. The non-stop driving time may not exceed 4.5 hours. After 4.5 hours of driving the driver must take a break period of at least 45 minutes. However, this can be split into 2 breaks, the first being at least 15 minutes, and the second being at least 30 minutes in length. The daily driving time shall not exceed 9 hours. The daily driving time may be extended to at most 10 hours not more than twice during the week. The weekly driving time may not exceed 56 hours. In addition to this, a driver cannot exceed 90 hours driving in a fortnight. Within each period of 24 hours after the end of the previous daily rest period or weekly rest period a driver must take a new daily rest period.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the Hours of service (HOS) of commercial drivers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are limited to 11 cumulative hours driving in a 14-hour period, following a rest period of no less than 10 consecutive hours. Drivers employed by carriers in "daily operation" may not work more than 70 hours within any period of 8 consecutive days.[6]

Drivers must maintain a daily 24-hour logbook Record of Duty Status documenting all work and rest periods. The record of duty status must be kept current to the last change of duty status and records of the previous 7 days retained by the driver in the truck and presented to law enforcement officials on demand.

Electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) can automatically record, among other things, the time the vehicle is in motion or stopped. The FMCSA is considering making EOBRs mandatory for all motor carriers.[7] [8]

New HOS (Hours of service) regulations came into effect on 1 July 2013. These require a break of 30 minutes to be taken before 8 hours of duty is reached. There are additional HOS regulations for California.

[9]

Compensation[edit]

Truck drivers are paid according to many different methods. These include salary, hourly, and a number of methods which can be broadly defined as piece work. Piece work methods may include both a base rate and additional pay. Base rates either compensate drivers by the mile or by the load.

A company driver who makes a number of "less than truckload" (LTL) deliveries via box truck or conventional tractor-trailer may be paid an hourly wage and/or a certain amount per mile, and/or per stop (aka "drop" or "dock bump"), and/or per piece delivered, unloaded, or "tailgated" (moved to the rear of the trailer).

The main advantage of being paid by the mile may be that a driver is rewarded according to measurable accomplishment. The main disadvantage is that what a driver may accomplish is not so directly related to the effort and, perhaps especially, the time required for completion.

[edit]

A sign for truckers reminding them to stay off the parkway.

Mileage calculations vary from carrier to carrier. Hub miles, or odometer miles ("hub" refers to hubometer, a mechanical odometer mounted to an axle), pay the driver for every mile. Calculations are generally limited to no more than 3-5% above the estimates of mileage by the carrier before red flags appear, depending on the generosity of the carrier or how it rates the mileage estimation capabilities of the software used. One version of hub miles includes only those per carrier designated route, i.e., a set number of miles. "Out of route" miles of any incentive are provided by the driver to the carrier for free.

Many of the largest long haul trucking companies in the United States pay their drivers according to short miles. Short miles are the absolute shortest distance between two or more zip codes, literally a straight line drawn across the map. These short miles rarely reflect the actual miles that must be driven in order to pickup and deliver freight, but they will be used to calculate what the driver will earn.

Short miles are on average about ten percent less than actual miles but in some cases the difference can be as large as 50 percent. An extreme (but not unheard of) example would be a load that picked up in Brownsville Texas and delivered in Miami Florida. This journey would require the driver to travel over 1600 miles. The short routing however would believe the distance to be only 750, as though the truck could drive across the Gulf of Mexico. Another extreme example would be a load that picked up in Buffalo New York and delivered in Green Bay Wisconsin, not giving any consideration that three of America's Great Lakes lie between that load's origin and destination.

Other obvious obstacles would be mountains and canyons. Truck prohibited routes sometimes create this same phenomena, requiring a driver to drive several truck legal routes and approaching a destination from behind (essentially driving a fish hook shaped route), because the most direct route cannot accommodate heavy truck traffic.

Some trucking companies have tried to alleviate some of these discrepancies by paying their drivers according to "practical miles." This is where dispatch gives them a certain route to follow and will pay them for those. This is done in effort of compensating drivers for the actual work done. These routes will largely follow the Interstate Highway system but will sometimes require the driver to use state and U.S. highways and toll roads. Trucking companies practice this method in order to attract and retain veteran drivers.

A protest group which targets truckers.

Household goods (HHG) miles, from the Household Goods Mileage Guide (aka "short miles") was the first attempt at standardizing motor carrier freight rates for movers of household goods, some say at the behest of the Department of Defense for moving soldiers around the country, long a major source of steady and reliable revenue. Rand McNally, in conjunction with the precursor of the National Moving & Storage Association developed the first Guide published in 1936, at which point it contained only about 300 point-to-point mileages.[10]

Today, the 19th version of the Guide has grown to contain distances between more than 140,000 cities, zip codes, or highway junctions.[11]

Therein, if you ask many drivers, lies the inherent unfairness of HHG-based mileage pay; miles are driven point-to-point, not from "city" to "zip code" or "highway junction".

[edit]

Getting paid by percentage is the preferred way of business among veteran drivers and owner-operators. Typical percentage among owner-operators pulling flatbed trailers is between 85-90 percent of line haul being paid to the driver. Additionally the driver may receive 100 percent of fuel surcharges and fees for extra pickups or drops or for tarping loads. It creates strong incentives for drivers for agreeing to pull especially difficult loads; i.e. pieces that are especially heavy or large, that require tarping, pieces that are being shipped or received along treacherous routes far from the interstates. It also discourages drivers and owner-operators from agreeing to move "cheap freight." Percentage of load is the simplest way of calculating what a driver and his/her truck will earn.

Special licences[edit]

Australia[edit]

Taking a breather after a long drive.

In Australia heavy vehicle licences are issued by the states but are a national standard; there are 5 classes of licence required by drivers of heavy vehicles:

  • A Light Rigid (LR class) licence covers a rigid vehicle with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) not more than 8 tonnes, with a towed trailer not weighing more than 9 tonnes GTM (Gross Trailer Mass). Also buses with a GVM up to 8 tonnes which carry more than 12 adults including the driver.
  • A Medium Rigid (MR class) licence covers a rigid vehicle with 2 axles and a GVM of more than 8 tonnes, with a towed trailer not weighing more than 9 tonnes GTM.
  • A Heavy Rigid (HR class) licence covers a rigid vehicle with 3 or more axles with a towed trailer not weighing more than 9 tonnes GTM. Also articulated buses.
  • A Heavy Combination (HC class) licence covers semi-trailers, or rigid vehicles towing a trailer with a GTM of more than 9 tonnes.
  • A Multi-Combination (MC class) licence covers multi-combination vehicles like Road Trains and B-Double Vehicles.

A person must have a C class (car) licence for 1 year before they can apply for an LR or MR class licence and 2 years before they can apply for an HR, to upgrade to an HC class licence a person must have an MR or HR class licence for 1 year and to upgrade to an MC class licence a person must have an HR or HC class licence for 1 year.[12]

Canada[edit]

A driver's licence in Canada, including commercial vehicle licences, are issued and regulated provincially. Regarding CDL (commercial drivers licences), there is no standardization between provinces and territories.

European Union[edit]

In the EU, one or more of the categories of Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) licenses is required.

Medium Sized Vehicles:

C1 Lorries between 3500 kg and 7500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg.

Medium Sized vehicles with trailers:

C1+E Lorries between 3500 kg and 7500 kg with a trailer over 750 kg - total weight not more than 12000 kg (if you passed your category B test prior to 1.1.1997 you will be restricted to a total weight not more than 8250 kg).

Large Vehicles:

C Vehicles over 3500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg.

Large Vehicles with trailers:

C+E Vehicles over 3500 kg with a trailer over 750 kg.

In Australia for example a HC licence covers buses as well as goods vehicles in the UK and most of the EU however a separate licence is needed.

Minibuses:

D1 Vehicles with between 9 and 16 passenger seats with a trailer up to 750 kg.

Minibuses with trailers:

D1+E Combinations of vehicles where the towing vehicle is in subcategory D1 and its trailer has a MAM of over 750 kg, provided that the MAM of the combination thus formed does not exceed 12000 kg, and the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle.

Buses:

D Any bus with more than 8 passenger seats with a trailer up to 750 kg.

Buses with trailers:

D+E Any bus with more than 8 passenger seats with a trailer over 750 kg.

United States[edit]

The United States employs a truck classification system, and truck drivers are required to have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to operate a CMV with a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of 26,000 pounds.

Acquiring a CDL requires a skills test (pre-trip inspection and driving test), and knowledge test (written) covering the unique handling qualities of driving a large, heavily loaded commercial vehicle, and the mechanical systems required to operate such a vehicle (air brakes, suspension, cargo securement, et al.), plus be declared fit by medical examination no less than every two years. For passenger bus drivers, a current passenger endorsement is also required.

A person must be at least 18 years of age to obtain a CDL. Drivers under age 21 are limited to operating within their state of licensing (intrastate operation). Many major trucking companies require driver applicants to be at least 23 years of age, with a year of experience, while others will hire and train new drivers as long as they have a clean driving history.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) stipulates the various classes of CDLs and associated licensing and operational requirements and limitations.[13]

  • Class A - Any combination of vehicles with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B - Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR.
A tanker truck.
  • Class C - Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

A CDL can also contain separate endorsements required to operate certain trailers or to haul certain cargo.[13] These endorsements are noted on the CDL and often appear in advertisements outlining the requirements for employment.

  • P - Passenger (Knowledge test; skills test may be required for some operations. Required for Bus drivers.)
  • X - Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials

Other endorsements are possible, e.g. M endorsement to transport metal coils weighing more than 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg), but are tested and issued by individual states and are not consistent throughout all states (as of this writing, the M endorsement is peculiar to the state of New York). The laws of the state from whence a driver's CDL is issued are considered the applicable laws governing that driver.

If a driver either fails the air brake component of the general knowledge test or performs the skills test in a vehicle not equipped with air brakes, the driver is issued an air brake restriction, restricting the driver from operating a CMV equipped with air brakes.

Specifically, the five-axle tractor-semitrailer combination that is most commonly associated with the word "truck" requires a Class A CDL to drive. Beyond that, the driver's employer (or shipping customers, in the case of an independent owner-operator) generally specifies what endorsements their operations require a driver to possess.

Truck regulations on size, weight, and route designations[edit]

U.S.[edit]

Truck drivers are responsible for checking the axle and gross weights of their vehicles, usually by being weighed at a truck stop scale. Truck weights are monitored for limits compliance by state authorities at a weigh station and by DOT officers with portable scales.

Commercial motor vehicles are subject to various state and federal laws regarding limitations on truck length (measured from bumper to bumper), width, and truck axle length (measured from axle to axle or fifth wheel to axle for trailers).

The relationship between axle weight and spacing, known as the Federal Bridge Gross Weight Formula, is designed to protect bridges.[15]

A standard 18-wheeler consists of three axle groups: a single front (steering) axle, the tandem (dual) drive axles, and the tandem trailer axles. Federal weight limits for NN traffic are:[16]

  1. 20,000 pounds for a single axle.
  2. 34,000 pounds for a tandem axle.
  3. 80,000 pounds for total weight.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division of the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) regulates the length, width, and weight limits of CMVs used in interstate commerce.

Interstate commercial truck traffic is generally limited to a network of interstate freeways and state highways known as the National Network (NN). The National Network consists of (1) the Interstate Highway System and (2) highways, formerly classified as Primary System routes, capable of safely handling larger commercial motor vehicles, as certified by states to FHWA.[17]

State weight and length limits (which may be lesser or greater than federal limits) affect only operation off the NN. There is no federal height limit, and states may set their own limits which range from 13 feet 6 inches to 14 feet.[18] As a result, the height of most trucks range between 13' and 14'.

Truck driver problems (U.S.)[edit]

Unpaid work time[edit]

Occam's Razor may suggest it is safe to assume that distances provided by the HHG Guide have been thoroughly examined to ensure drivers are not "overpaid" for miles not driven.[citation needed] Given the obvious accuracy limitations of computing mileage between fewer than 150,000 points and the availability of less expensive consumer-grade map and routing software such as Microsoft Streets & Trips many magnitudes more inclusive and therefore accurate than such a crude method, it may also be safe to assume HHG miles are shorter than those of a "real world" practical route. Most companies do not use streets and trips but use a program called PC*MILER as it is set up for trucking using truck routes and tends to be more accurate than the HMG or Microsoft streets and trips. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) rely on PC*MILER as their worldwide distance standard.

How much shorter is a matter of contention, but it is not uncommon to hear drivers report 5-12 percent, and carriers to claim the miles vary from shorter to longer and it all works out in the end to be a wash, or that drivers are paid more per mile to compensate. Drivers may then point out that not only do they drive more miles, those additional miles require additional time which is extracted from the hours available to the driver for driving permitted by the federal hours of service.

The argument continues, but drivers are always free to seek another employer who calculates compensation by the preferred method of the driver, and many do not simply because all major and most minor carriers use this less than accurate method for computing miles.

Turnover and driver shortage[edit]

In 2006, the U.S. trucking industry as a whole employed 3.4 million drivers.[19] A major problem for the long-haul trucking industry is that a large percentage of these drivers are aging, and are expected to retire. Very few new hires are expected in the near future, resulting in a driver shortage. Currently, within the long-haul sector, there is an estimated shortage of 20,000 drivers. That shortage is expected to increase to 111,000 by 2014.[20] Trucking (especially the long-haul sector) is also facing an image crisis due to the long working hours, long periods of time away from home, the dangerous nature of the work, the relatively low pay (compared to hours worked), and a "driver last" mentality that is common throughout the industry.

Employee turnover within the long-haul trucking industry is notorious for being extremely high. In the 4th quarter of 2005, turnover within the largest carriers in the industry reached a record 136%,[21] meaning a carrier that employed 100 drivers would lose an average of 136 drivers each year.

Time off[edit]

Due to the high demands of the job, drivers are known to work for months at a time, without taking any days off to go home. Some even prefer to forgo a traditional house, and take up permanent residence within the truck, usually with a large and well-equipped sleeper berth, equivalent to a small RV. Long-haul company drivers typically earn as little as one day off for every week of work, such as working for four weeks and taking four days off. Regional drivers (who often drive dedicated routes between the same locations) usually work five days a week, and receive weekends off. LTL (Less Than Truckload) drivers often work normal hours and do not sleep in their trucks, having nights (or days, depending on the shift worked) and weekends off.

Safety[edit]

From 1992–1995, truck drivers had a higher total number of fatalities than any other occupation, accounting for 12% of all work-related deaths.[22] Truck drivers are five times more likely to die in a work-related accident than the average worker.[23] Highway accidents accounted for a majority of truck driver deaths, most of them caused by confused drivers in passenger vehicles who are unfamiliar with large trucks.

The unsafe actions of automobile drivers are a contributing factor in about 70 percent of the fatal crashes involving trucks. More public awareness of how to share the road safely with large trucks is needed.[24]

The safety of truck drivers and their trucks is monitored and statistics compiled by the FMCSA or Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration who provides online information on safety violations. If a truck is stopped by a law enforcement agent or at an inspection station, information on the truck is complied and OOS violations are logged. A violation out of service is defined by federal code as an imminent hazard under 49 U.S.C. § 521(b)(5)(B), "any condition likely to result in serious injury or death". National statistics on accidents published in the FMCSA Analysis and Information online website provides the key driver OOS categories for year 2009 nationally: 17.6% are log entry violations, 12.6% are speeding violations, 12.5% drivers record of duty not current, and 6.5% requiring driver to drive more than 14 hours on duty. This has led to some insurance companies wanting to monitor driver behavior and requiring electronic log and satellite monitoring.[25]

In 2009[26] there were 3380 fatalities involving large trucks, of which 2470 were attributed to combination unit trucks (defined as any number of trailers behind a tractor). In a November 2005 FMCSA report to Congress,[27] the data for 33 months of large truck crashes was analyzed. 87 percent of crashes were driver error. In cases where two vehicles, a car and a truck, were involved, 46 percent of the cases involved the truck's driver and 56 percent involved the car's driver. While the truck and car in two vehicle accidents share essentially half the burden of the accidents (not 70 percent as stated above), the top six driver factors are essentially also the same and in approximately equivalent percentages: Prescription drug use, over the counter drug use, unfamiliarity with the road, speeding, making illegal maneuvers, inadequate surveillance. This suggests that the truck driver makes the same errors as the car driver and vice versa. This is not true of the vehicle caused crashes (about 30 percent of crashes) where the top failure for trucks is caused by the brakes (29 percent of the time compared to 2% of the time for the car).

Truck drivers often spend their nights parked at a truck stop, rest area, or on the shoulder of a freeway ramp. Sometimes these are in secluded areas or dangerous neighborhoods, which account for a number of deaths due to drivers being targeted by thieves for their valuable cargo, money and property, or for the truck and trailer themselves. Drivers of trucks towing flatbed trailers are responsible for securing and strapping down their cargo (which often involves climbing onto the cargo itself), and if the load requires tarping necessitates climbing on the load to spread out tarps. Tarps can weigh up to 200 lbs each and the cargo can require up to 3 tarps per load which accounts for a number of deaths and injuries from falling. Drivers spend long hours behind the wheel, which can cause strain on the back muscles. Some drivers are responsible for unloading their cargo, which can lead to many back strains and sprains due to overexertion and improper lifting techniques.

Safety Training Programs[edit]

Several companies such as Avatar Management Services of Macedonia, Ohio [28] and DriverSheets.com [29] have devoted themselves to developing successful safety training programs for truck drivers. While Avatar focuses on offering full-blown safety programs, Driversheets.com supplements programs by offering safety posters that focus on themes such as intersection safety, railroad crossings, pedestrians, backing, personal safety, et al.

Sleep apnea among some commercial drivers[edit]

Truck drivers are also sensitive to sleep disorders. Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 12% of all crashes and 10% of all near crashes. Traffic fatalities are high and many of them are due to driver fatigue. Drivers with obstructive sleep apnea have a sevenfold increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.[30] It is estimated that 2.4-3.9 million licensed commercial drivers in the US have obstructive sleep apnea[30] out of the estimated 18 million total Americans.[31] The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that as many 28 percent of commercial driver's license holders have sleep apnea.[32]

  • Total costs attributed to sleep apnea-related crashes:
    • 2000: $15.9 billion and 1,400 lives
  • Treatment:
    • Cost: $3.18 billion with 70% effectiveness of CPAP treatment
    • Savings: $11.1 billion in collision costs and 980 lives annually (national safety council)

Research sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and American Trucking Associations found:

  • Almost one-third (28%) of commercial truck drivers have some degree of sleep apnea
  • 17.6% have mild sleep apnea
  • 5.8% have moderate sleep apnea
  • 4.7% have severe sleep apnea[31]

Parking[edit]

A study published in 2002 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) - "shows that parking areas for trucks and buses along major roads and highways are more than adequate across the nation when both public (rest areas) and commercial parking facilities are factored in."[33]

A 2000 Highway Special Investigation Report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) forwards the following statistics:

  1. Parking spaces at private truck stops- 185,000 (estimate)
  2. Number of trucks parked at private truck stops at night- 167,453 (estimate)
  3. Private truck stops that are full on any given night nationwide- 53 percent
  4. Shortfall of truck parking spaces- 28,400 (estimate)
  5. Public rest areas with full or overflowing parking at night 80 percent[34]

One challenge of finding truck parking is made difficult perhaps not because there are insufficient parking spaces "nationwide", but where the majority of those spaces are not located, and most needed; near the most densely populated areas where demand for trucked goods is greatest.

As urban areas continue to sprawl, land for development of private truck stops nearby becomes prohibitively expensive and there seems to be an understandable reluctance on the part of the citizenry to live near a facility where a large number of trucks may be idling their engines all night, every night, or to experience the associated increase of truck traffic on local streets.

Exacerbating the problem are parking restrictions or prohibitions in commercial areas where plenty of space exists and the fact that shippers and receivers of freight tend to prefer to ship and receive truckloads in the early and late portions of the business day.

The end result is an increase in truck traffic during the morning and evening rush hours when traffic is most dense, commuters exhibit least patience, and safety is compromised.

Adding to the challenge of finding parking are:

  1. A driver can only become familiar with locations of public and commercial parking spaces and their capacity and traffic by visiting them.
  2. The parking shortage, real or perceived, nearest the most dense urban areas incites drivers to arrive early and many of those truck stops are full by 7pm leaving even drivers who carefully plan their trips in detail few, if any, options.

Idling restrictions[edit]

Idling restrictions further complicate the ability of drivers to obtain adequate rest, as this example from California may illustrate:

Commercial diesel-fueled vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds are subject to the following idling restrictions effective February 1, 2005. You may not:

  • idle the vehicle’s primary diesel engine for greater than five minutes at any location.[35]
  • operate a diesel-fueled auxiliary power system which powers a heater, air conditioner, or any additional equipment for sleeper-berth equipped vehicles during sleeping or resting periods for greater than five minutes at any location within 100 feet of a restricted area.

Drivers are subject to both civil and criminal penalties for violations of this regulation."[36]

DAC Reporting[edit]

A truck driver's “DAC Report” refers to the employment history information submitted by former employers to HireRight & USIS Commercial Services Inc. (formerly called DAC Services, or “Drive-A-Check”). Among other things, a truck driver’s DAC Report contains the driver’s identification (Name, DOB, SSN), the name and address of the contributing trucking company, the driver’s dates of employment with that company, the driver’s reason for leaving that company, whether the driver is eligible for rehire, and comments about the driver’s work record (e.g. good, satisfactory, too many late deliveries, etc.). It will also indicate whether the company stored drug and alcohol testing information with USIS. A separate section of the DAC report contains incident/accident information as well as CSA 2010 Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) Reports.[37]

False reports[edit]

The DAC report is as critical to the livelihood of a professional truck driver as the credit report is to a consumer. When a trucking company reports negative information about a truck driver, it can ruin the driver’s career by preventing him or her from finding a truck driving job for several years or more. It is widely known that trucking companies often abuse this power by willfully and maliciously reporting false information on truckers’ DAC reports, either in retaliation for seeking better paying trucking jobs elsewhere, or for any number of other fraudulent, anti-competitive reasons. As long as truck drivers can be threatened with a false DAC report for standing up to management or leaving their company for a better job elsewhere, working conditions at truck driver jobs will not improve.[38]

Satellite tracking[edit]

Many companies today utilize some type of satellite vehicle tracking or trailer tracking to assist in fleet management. In this context "tracking" refers to a location tracking and "satellite" refers either to a GPS or GLONASS satellites system providing location information or communications satellites used for location data transmission. A special location tracking device also known as tracker or an AVL unit is installed on a truck and automatically determines its position in real-time and sends it to a remote computer database for visualizing and analysis.

An "in cab" communication device AVL unit often allows a driver to communicate with their dispatcher, who is normally responsible for determining and informing the driver of their pick-up and drop-off locations. If the AVL unit is connected to a Mobile data terminal or a computer it also allows the driver to input the information from a bill of lading (BOL) into a simple dot matrix display screen (commonly called a "Qualcomm" for that company's ubiquitous OmniTRACS system).

The driver inputs the information, using a keyboard, into an automated system of pre-formatted messages known as macros. There are macros for each stage of the loading and unloading process, such as "loaded and leaving shipper" and "arrived at final destination." This system also allows the company to track the driver's fuel usage, speed, gear optimization, engine idle time, location, direction of travel, and amount of time spent driving.

Werner Enterprises, a U.S. company based in Omaha, Nebraska, has utilized this system to implement a "paperless log" system. Instead of keeping track of working hours on a traditional pen and paper based logbook, the driver informs the company of his status using a macro.

Health issues[edit]

Working conditions[edit]

A sign in the US warning truck drivers to stay off a certain route.

Most truck drivers are employed as over-the-road drivers, meaning they are hired to drive long distances from the place of pickup to the place of delivery. During the short times while they are in heavily polluted urban areas, being inside the cab of the truck contributes much to avoiding the inhalation of toxic emissions, and on the majority of the trip, while they are passing through vast rural areas where there is little air pollution, truck drivers in general enjoy less exposure to toxic emissions in the air than the inhabitants of large cities, where there is an increased exposure to emissions from engines, factories, etc., which may increase the risk of cancer[39] and can aggravate certain lung diseases, such as asthma[40] in the general public who inhabit these cities. However, the few drivers who are hired to drive only within urban areas do not have this advantage of spending more time away from toxic emissions that is enjoyed by over-the-road drivers. Other conditions effecting the health of truck drivers are for example vibration, noise, long periods of sitting, work stress and exhaustion. For drivers in developing countries there are additional risks because roads are on appalling conditions and accidents occur more frequently. Truck drivers are even a high-risk group for HIV-infection in those countries.[41]

In order to address the hazards relative to driver fatigue, many countries have laws limiting the amount of time truck drivers can work. Many underdeveloped countries either lack such laws or do not enforce them.

Australia health requirements[edit]

A new law was passed in Australia requiring that all "over the road" drivers carry their medical information with them when they "are on the clock". This will help drivers comply with this new law and can also help deliver quick, accurate medical assistance if and when needed.

Truckers bedded down for the night in the UK.

Obesity[edit]

According to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 86% of the estimated 3.2 million truck drivers in the United States are overweight or obese.[42] Some key risk factors for obesity in truckers are poor eating habits, lack of access to healthy food, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle, long work hours, and lack of access to care.[43]

Eighty percent of truckers have unhealthful eating patterns as a result of poor food choices and food availability at truck stops is partially to blame.[44] The options at truck stops are generally high calorie and high fat foods available through restaurants, fast-food, diners and vending machines.[45] Fresh produce and whole grain items are few and far between. Though 85% of mini-mart items are categorized as extremely unhealthy, 80% of these meals are considered a truck driver’s main meal of the day.[44][46] Also, most of the foods carried by drivers in their trucks, whether or not stored in a refrigerator, are purchased from truck stops.[44] Research suggests that drivers value quality and taste much more than nutrition when selecting food.[46] Another issue is the pattern of extensive and irregular snacking while on the road and consumption of one large meal at the end of day.[44][45][46] The daily meal is often high in calories and may be the highlight of the trucker’s day.[44] Food intake varies during working hours compared to days off and truckers eat meals at the wrong circadian phase during the day.[43]

A Volvo FH12 truck.

Lack of exercise is another contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in the truck driver population. Almost 90% of truck drivers exercise only sometimes or never and only 8% exercise regularly.[47] This is largely determined by long work hours and tight deadlines, the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of a place to exercise.[42][48] Though some fitness resources are available for truckers, most are scarce. Available areas are truck stops, highway rest areas, trucking terminals, warehouses, and the truck cab.[42] However, there are many parking restrictions and safety concerns in trying to incorporate exercise into the daily routine.[44]

Studies have found the risk of obesity increases in high demand, low control jobs, and more so in jobs with long work hours;[49] the truck driving industry falls under these categories. Also, daytime sleepiness and night disturbances are associated with obesity,[49] and are, therefore, common among truck drivers. Long haul drivers have tight schedules, so they tend to drive longer and get less sleep.[42] The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does have Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. Under the old rule, drivers could work up to 82 hours in 7 days. These regulations were modified in 2011; but the new rule only permits drivers to work up to 70 hours in 7 days.[50] There is now an 11 hour per day limit with 10 hours off required after the weekly shift. [51] Fines for companies which allow work beyond 11 hours are up to $11,000 and for drivers up to $2,750. Though these fines exist, there is minimal enforcement of the law.[50]

Obesity prevalence is affected by access to care for truckers. Company drivers often have issues with insurance, such as necessary pre-approval if out of network. Most owner-operator drivers do not have any kind of medical insurance. Moreover, truckers have difficulties making an appointment on the road and often do not know where to stop for assistance. Many self-diagnose or ignore their health issue all together.[52] Some are able to be seen at doctor’s offices or private clinics while a large percentage depend on emergency rooms and urgent care visits.[52] The Department of Transportation has Convenient Care Clinics across the U.S., but those are hard to find and are few and far between. Health care costs are substantially higher for overweight and obese individuals, so obesity in the truck driver population puts a greater financial demand on the industry.[53]

Implementation of drug detection[edit]

U.S.[edit]

I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, find that: Drug use is having serious adverse effects upon a significant proportion of the national work force and results in billions of dollars of lost productivity each year; The Federal government, as an employer, is concerned with the well-being of its employees, the successful accomplishment of agency missions, and the need to maintain employee productivity; The Federal government, as the largest employer in the Nation, can and should show the way towards achieving drug-free workplaces through a program designed to offer drug users a helping hand and, at the same time, demonstrating to drug users and potential drug users that drugs will not be tolerated in the Federal workplace; The profits from illegal drugs provide the single greatest source of income for organized crime, fuel violent street crime, and otherwise contribute to the breakdown of our society; [...] By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America [...] deeming such action in the best interests of national security, public health and safety, law enforcement and the efficiency of the Federal service, and in order to establish standards and procedures to ensure fairness in achieving a drug-free Federal workplace and to protect the privacy of Federal employees, it is hereby ordered [....]

Sec. 8. Effective Date. This Order is effective immediately.

Excerpt of Reagan's Executive Order 12564
September 15, 1986
[54]

In the 1980s the administration of President Ronald Reagan proposed to put an end to drug abuse in the trucking industry by means of the then-recently developed technique of urinalysis, with his signing of Executive Order 12564, requiring regular random drug testing of all truck drivers nationwide, as well as employees of other DOT-regulated industries specified in the order, though considerations had to be made concerning the effects of an excessively rapid implementation of the measure.

Making sudden great changes in the infrastructures of huge economies and the industries crucial to them always entails risks, the greater the change, the larger the degree. Because of the U.S. economy's strong dependence on the movement of merchandise to and from large metropolitan population centers separated by such great distances, a sudden shortage of truck drivers could have far-reaching and devastating effects on the economy.

After the 1929 stock-market crash, for example, the chain reaction of reduction in sales due to consumers' prioritizing and reducing purchases of luxury items, with companies responding by reducing production and increasing unemployment, exacerbating the cycle of reduction or elimination of production, sales and employment, had the ultimate result of plunging the nation's economy into the Great Depression.

Likewise, it had to be considered that a sudden halting or stunting of the movement of merchandise, as would occur with a large and sudden vacating of the cargo-transportation workforce, would have similar consequences. Even the 1974 nationwide speed-limit reduction to 55 mph, which merely slowed the movement of merchandise, was followed by the recession of the late 1970s.

In the years and decades following Executive Order 12564, efforts to begin random drug testing and pre-employment drug screening of truck drivers were not expedited, leaving the change to occur gradually, out of concern for the dangers of excessively rapid change in economic infrastructure. Since then, a large number of tractor-trailer operators have left the industry in search of other employment, and a new generation of drivers has come in. Subsequent to the measure it became extremely difficult for truck drivers to engage in drug abuse and remain undetected.

Truck driver slang[edit]

U.S.[edit]

Main article: CB slang

Truck drivers once had a highly elaborate and colorful vocabulary of slang for use over their CB radios, but with the high turnover in the industry in recent decades, this has all but vanished. Most of the newer generation of drivers in the U.S. today speak to one another over their CB radios (or other similar communication devices) in more or less standard English (as understood in the various regions of the country), although a few of the slang words and phrases have remained, and many of these have passed into use in the colloquial language of the general public.

"Smokey" and/or "bear" are still used to refer to police officers, especially state patrolmen, and sometimes "diesel bear" for a DOT officer, though many new-school drivers merely say "police," "policeman" and "cop." "Hammer" refers to the accelerator pedal, and "hammer lane" the left lane or passing lane on a freeway, in which traffic generally travels faster. "Handle", meaning a nickname, was once exclusively truck-driver slang, but has now passed into common use by the public, especially for pseudonyms used on Internet forums.

Most of the "ten codes" have fallen nearly or completely into disuse, except "10/4," meaning "message received," "affirmative," "okay," "understood," and occasionally "10/20," referring to the driver's location, (e.g., "What's your 20?")

Often older truck drivers speaking over their CB radios are frustrated at new-school truck drivers' lack of understanding of the trucking slang of the '60s, '70s and '80s, and grudgingly resort to standard English when communicating with them.

− Some truck-driver slang:

  • alligator/'gator- a section of tire casing constituting a hazard
    A bobtail truck tractor
  • barbershop- a bridge lower than 13' 6" [4m 11 cm] (standard minimum height on all Interstates and state highway systems with controlled-access designation) that could scrape off the top portions of a tractor-trailer rig
  • big sign- the "Closed" sign for weigh stations
  • bull wagon- truck and trailer hauling live stock
  • bobtail- tractor with no trailer
  • chicken hawk- a male prostitute, who can typically be found lurking around truck stops on a regular basis.
  • city kitty- a city police.
  • cab-over- truck designed with the cab positioned over the engine, instead of behind it
  • comeback?- What? I beg your pardon? Could you repeat that, please?
  • coop- (re: "chicken coop") a weigh station, due to the resemblance of the small offices to chicken coops
  • county mountie- a constable, county sheriff or sheriff's deputy (from earlier slang for "mounted policeman", a policeman on horseback)
  • deadhead- a tractor pulling an empty trailer; miles covered while pulling an empty trailer are called "deadhead miles"
  • double-nickel- 55 mph [90 km/h] (in more common use during the 1974-87 era of the National Maximum Speed Law; the U.S. five-cent coin is popularly [though not officially] called a "nickel" because of its metallic content)
  • dummy book- a pamphlet or brochure explaining truck-driver slang, usually distributed at truckstops in the 70s and 80s and in a few bookstores (this list would be called a "dummy book")
  • four-wheeler- a passenger vehicle, even a pickup truck
  • full grown- state trooper or DMV officer
  • Freightshaker- a truck from Daimler AG's Freightliner Trucks
  • granny lane- the lane farthest to the right usually designated for slower traffic
  • hammer lane- the lane farthest to the left.
  • hammer down- traveling extremely fast.
  • in the middle- parked on the median, usually the location of a speed trap or broken-down vehicle
  • in the face- associated with a police pointing your direction (shooting you) using radar.
  • kitty smirk- when a female truck driver flirts with a male truck driver.
  • kosher pickle park- a state highway rest area blessed by a Rabbi.
  • little sign- the "Open" sign for weigh stations, also referred to as "the little word".
  • lot lizard- a prostitute, especially one that frequents truck stops.
  • lucky bastard- when a male truck driver has the privilege of being accompanied by a woman.
  • on your back door- a vehicle behind you, commonly referred to as "on your tail".
  • parking lot- an auto-transport truck, usually referred to as a "portable parking lot".
  • piggy bank/cash box- a toll plaza
  • pickle park- a state highway rest area
  • plain wrapper- unmarked law enforcement vehicle, most commonly referred to with the color of the wrapper such as a "plain brown wrapper".
  • porch light- light on the back of the truck.
  • Smokey Bear- a police officer, used because of the resemblance between police officer's campaign hat, and that of the Forest Service's Smokey Bear mascot, commonly just referred to as a bear.
  • shooting you- a law-enforcement officer using any speed-detection device or radar gun, example: "shooting you in the face", or "shooting you up the exhaust" (from the rear).
  • six wheeler- any vehicle with single rear axle with dual tires.
  • skateboard- a flatbed trailer
  • taking pictures - a law-enforcement officer using any speed-detection device or radar gun, but most commonly when using a camera radar.
  • tanker yanker- a tanker rig or its driver
  • train - a rig pulling double/triple trailers
  • yardstick- a mile marker
  • the zipper- the dashed lane markings

Australia[edit]

Australian police vehicle, nicknamed a "candy car", with one of several checkerboard designs
  • candy carHighway Patrol police car, usually with high-visibility police decals
  • dollar - 100 kilometres per hour (60 mph)
  • Evel Knievel– a police motorcycle
  • flash for cashspeed camera (not to be confused with a manned radar gun)
  • '"hair dryer'"-hand held radar gun
  • 'hot plate'or BarBy– weigh station
  • the scalies or coneheadsTransport Safety inspectors who man checking/weigh stations
  • Sesame Street - Hume Highway (Sydney to Melbourne)
  • turd herder - carrier of stock (animal freight)
  • tyregator - tyre stripped off the rim and usually left lying on the road

Visual signaling[edit]

Vehicle-light signaling[edit]

A Volvo F12 truck.

U.S.[edit]

One form of unspoken communication between drivers is to flash headlights on or off once or twice to indicate that a passing truck has cleared the passed vehicle and may safely change lanes in front of the signaling vehicle. Flashing of the high beams is discouraged, since the driver is looking in the mirror to see if it is clear to move over and the bright light of the high beams can temporarily blind the driver. The passing driver may then flash the trailer or marker lights to indicate thanks. This signal is also sometimes used by other motorists to signal truck drivers.

Continual flashing of headlights or high beams after emerging from around a corner beside a high wall or from any roadway out of sight to oncoming traffic will alert a truck driver in the oncoming lanes to an accident or other obstruction ahead, and will warn him to reduce speed or to proceed with caution. Since truck-driver language has no signal for "Do not move in front of me," nor has any understood length of time for turning headlights or high beams on or off, flashing the high-beams to say "Do not move in front of me" may be misinterpreted to mean that the truck is clear to proceed with the lane change in front of the vehicle giving the signal.

Europe[edit]

As a rule, "thanks" is signaled to the vehicle behind by switching between the left- and right-turn signal several times, whereas turning on the hazard-warning lights (both turn signals) means "Slow down; danger ahead". As cars would normally use the hazard-warning lights for "thanks", in trucks distinction is necessary. The truck blocks the view of drivers behind it, hence a distinction must be made between "Thanks for letting me pass" and "Danger in front, I may brake hard!" Turning on the left-turn signal (in a right-hand traffic country) when a vehicle behind attempts to overtake means "Back off; lane not clear", and turning on the right-turn signal means "Go ahead; lane clear".

Truck drivers also use flashing headlights to warn drivers in the oncoming lane(s) of a police patrol down the road. Though not official, two consecutive flashes indicate a police patrol, whereas a rapid series of flashing indicates DMV or other law-enforcement agency that only controls truck drivers. During the day time, the latter is sometimes accompanied by the signaling driver making a circle with both hands (as if holding a tachograph ring).

Flashing headlights to the vehicle in front (intended for the other driver to see in their mirror) has two meanings. Long flashes are used to signal a truck driver that they are clear to return to the lane. A series of rapid flashes generally means "You're doing something stupid and/or dangerous" as in "Do not move in front, trailer not clear!" or "I'm overtaking, move aside".

Truckers also use their 4 ways flashing up a steep hills, mountain roads and on ramps on express ways to let others know that they are traveling at a slow speed and to be cautious approaching them.

Greeting[edit]

In Europe the general rule for truckers in a right hand driving country is to raise the left hand and to simply open the hand with all finger extended without waving it at all. Or a shorter version is to simply extend the fingers while still keeping the palm in contact with the steering wheel. Raising the right hand is also used in the same way but very rare.

"V" greeting[edit]

Additionally, there is variation in the meanings of hand gestures within the industry. In the U.S., for example, it is common for truck drivers while passing to greet one another by lifting a hand off the steering wheel, backhand facing the other driver, with the index and middle fingers extended (similar to the "peace sign" or V sign, only reversed). In the UK, however, the same gesture is equivalent to the raising of the middle finger in the U.S. As the British interpretation of the "backwards peace sign" is generally unknown in America, it is intended only as a friendly greeting amongst U.S. truck drivers.

In popular culture[edit]

Truck drivers have been widely portrayed in the culture of the United States

Truck drivers have been the subject of many films, such as They Drive by Night (1940), but they became an especially popular topic in popular culture in the mid-1970s, following the release of White Line Fever, and the hit song "Convoy" by C. W. McCall, both in 1975. The main character of "Convoy" was a truck driver known only by his CB handle (C.B. name), "Rubber Duck". Three years later, in 1978, a film was released with the same name. In 1977, another film Smokey and the Bandit, was released, which revolves around the escapades of a truck driver and his friend as they transport a load of beer across state lines. Smokey and the Bandit spawned two sequels. The 1978 film F.I.S.T. was a fictionalized account of the unionization of the trucking industry in the earlier 20th century, while the future of truck driving was speculated on in the 1996 film Space Truckers in which trucking has gone beyond planetary loads to interplanetary ones. One episode of Cowboy Bebop, "Heavy Metal Queen", also features spacefaring "truck" drivers.

Truck drivers have also been villainously portrayed in such films as Duel, Joy Ride, The Transporter Breakdown, The Hitcher, Thelma & Louise and Supergirl.

B. J. and the Bear was a television series depicting the exploits of a truck driver and his chimpanzee companion. Another was Movin' On, starring Claude Akins and Frank Converse. On 17 June 2007, the History Channel began to air Ice Road Truckers, a documentary-style reality television series following truck drivers as they drive across the ice roads in the Northwest Territories in Canada, as they transport equipment to the oil and natural gas mines in that area.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]