It’s a job that pays $80,000 a year, yet America is short of 51,000 truck drivers. The American Trucking Association states that the average age of an over-the-road trucker is 49 years old. At this age, cognitive function starts to decline, according to the long-term Whitehall II study. Not only is this putting Maryland’s and the rest of the nation’s population of truckers at risk of distracted driving, but they’re also more likely to develop health related problems associated with spending long periods of time away from home.
How the law aims to protects truckers
Just last year, a new federal law was introduced enforcing the use of electronic logging devices to record the hours worked and to prevent truckers from driving more than 11 hours during a 14 hour period. They must then have 10 consecutive hours off, which usually leads them to sleep in their truck and eat and shower on the road. Vice president of the FTR Transportation Intelligence, Avery Vise, believes that trucking is an undesirable role due to the working conditions. He stated “People tend to get into it because the pay seems pretty attractive for a semi skilled job, and it is. But what’s required of it is a lot.”
Business Insider reports that poor mental health is a significant concern in truckers who are away from their loved one for long periods of time. In their survey, the top mental health issue that one third of truck drivers reported was feeling lonely, which is a major worry as research has shown that strong social relationships are the key to a long, happy and healthy lifestyle. Whereas, poor social relationships can lead to heart disease, stroke and dementia. Additionally, poor food choices and lack of exercise due to being on the road can lead to weight gain and further health issues, such as hypertension.
Maryland introduced the Healthy Working Families Act on February 11, 2018. This act states that Maryland employers with 15 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave on annual basis to all eligible employees. Meanwhile, employers with less than 15 employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick/safe leave on an annual basis to all eligible employees. This law is beneficial for the truckers in the state who require time off work to get themselves back to full health and it alleviates the worry of being penalized due to ill-health. Furthermore, when purchasing a vehicle for their employees, employers should ensure that their trucks are in good condition and are comfortable, especially as back pain is one of the biggest health problems reported by truckers.
Maryland’s truckers are at risk of developing various serious health implications as a result of long periods spent on the road, away from their families. Thankfully, new laws have recently been introduced which aim to cut the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the roads and to provide them with time off for sickness and health related issues.