The plight of the truckers has been around for as long as the occupation, from long hours on the road where bathrooms and rest stops can be hard to come by to an unforgiving schedule which often leaves the drivers unaware and exhausted, the dangers on the road stretch far. Now, with a truck driver shortage showing no end in sight, it might be time to do something for such a vital aspect of everyday life.
The life of a truck driver
According to the New York Times, specific companies do not permanently employ truck drivers. Many operate as freelancers who have to work to get paid without the same benefits as their colleagues. This often leaves them emotionally and physically exhausted from minimal sleep. That alone can be too much for some, but the issues go deeper.
The New York Times spoke to a 65-year-old trucker named Stephen Graves about life on the road. According to Graves, the job is hard for people who love it, let alone those who do it for the pay. It’s not just exhaustion and lack of bathrooms. The trucker’s life doesn’t allow times for standard health and safety measures which, in turn, cuts their lives short.
“The lifestyle probably is the first thing that smacks people in the face… You’re thinking about it all the time. We’re tired. Our bodies are starting to go. Our bladders have been put to the test. And no exercise. We end up with all types of heart and other health ailments. You can’t truly fathom what it’s done to you,” Graves told the Times.
For this reason, truck driver shortages are a constant struggle for one of the most vital industries in American capitalism.
Why is there a truck driver shortage?
While the lack of truck drivers relative to the supply chain they haul is true, many combat the notion that it’s due to a common shortage, labor expert Steve Viscelli told the Times that this is not entirely accurate. “This shortage narrative is industry lobbying rhetoric,” he told the Times. “There is no shortage of truck drivers. These are just really bad jobs.”
While many people lament their bad jobs, many aren’t left sleepy, hungry, and alone a long way from their homes. Truckers often sleep in their cabins and find themselves at the liberty of the supply chain, even at the cost of being with family and friends. Long-distance truck drivers like Graves are often several states away from their home base.
As such, most don’t stumble into being a trucker. They find themselves there because it appeals to them. Even then, that is not enough for an unforgiving industry like trucking. Those who take the plunge can only hope for solutions to these problems.
What can the industry do?
Graves, Viscelli, other truckers, and experts know the dangers and problems that hold the industry back. Freelancers can only do so much, and those in trucking companies are underpaid to keep as many drivers on the road as they can. There are no easy solutions, but many are evident throughout the article.
Graves notes how few parking places are at a premium, and finding one can often seem a luxury. However, if there were more ideal parking places, hotels offering affordable rates to truckers, and easily-accessible healthy food options for drivers who often live off of convenience stores and vending machines, the well-being would improve. Furthermore, employing autonomous drivers could keep truckers safe without taking away work or wearing them out.
Lastly, providing adequate wages without abandoning their families would work numbers on their morale. There are simple solutions to the trucker shortage. However, if we want the items we take for granted, it might be time to start chipping away one problem at a time.