When we go to the grocery store, we expect to find shelves stocked with the food we like, seldom reflecting on how it got there.

Behind those stocked shelves, however, are the long-haul truck drivers whose jobs regularly require them to leave their families, friends, and homes to travel hundreds of miles to deliver the products that we buy.

The most recent statistics available, from 2012, show that more than 1.7 million people work as heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the United States. Most of these drivers operate long-haul trucks transporting goods, often across several states.

In 2012, 695 heavy and tractor-trailer drivers died in work-related motor vehicle crashes.

To gather data needed by private- and public-sector partners to help keep truck drivers safe on long hauls, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted personal interviews with 1,265 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the United States.

The drivers answered questions about their experiences with crashes, injuries from crashes, non-crash injuries, and moving violations; their work environments; driving behaviors; training; and job satisfaction and frustration. NIOSH reported these findings from the drivers’ answers:

  • 73% of the drivers perceived their delivery deadlines as unrealistically tight, which could increase likelihood of unsafe actions such as speeding, violating driving-hour regulations, and driving despite fatigue, bad weather, or heavy traffic.
  • 35% reported at least one crash in their career.
  • 38% reported receiving inadequate training at the beginning of their careers.

In other findings, a small number of drivers reported often engaging in unsafe actions, including speeding. Similarly, a small number reported receiving two or more moving violation tickets, an indication of unsafe actions.

A small percentage had a non-crash work-related injury involving days away from work in the previous 12 months, but most did not report these injuries to their employer.

Overall, the investigators view the survey results as highlighting the need for research and interventions to keep truckers and, as an added benefit, other drivers, on the road safe.

Conducted from October through December 2010, the survey included questions developed with input from unions, employer and operator organizations, and other partners, including the American Trucking Association, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.