Truck driving injuries and causes in the Lone Star State
If asked to list the most dangerous occupations, most people would be quick to identify police officers, firefighters, and maybe construction workers. But you might be surprised to learn that trucking is also one of the most dangerous jobs in Texas (and the rest of the United States).
Let’s take a look at why trucking is so dangerous, what injuries commonly result from trucking accidents, and what legal options exist for injured truckers.
Common dangers in the trucking industry
The biggest hazards that truckers in Texas face can be sorted into 3 broad categories:
- Truck accidents. Compared to the average driver, truckers are actually safer on the road. This is partly because there are strict state and federal regulations that govern how long a trucker can drive, how frequently trucks must undergo maintenance, and even how fast trucks can travel. Additionally, commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and their massive size helps truckers stay safe in an accident with another vehicle. However, large trucks are particularly prone to rollover accidents, jackknife accidents, and tire blowout accidents.
- Loading and unloading injuries. A trucker’s job often involves lifting heavy objects, which, if not done properly, can result in serious back injuries, head injuries, knee sprains, and musculoskeletal disorders. When loading or unloading cargo from a trailer, truck drivers should use appropriate safety gear and ask for help from others when needed. Mechanical aids and forklifts should be provided by the company to assist with heavy loads.
- Chronic stress injuries. After a trucker has driven for a while, they may start to develop chronic neck or back pain from sitting for long periods of time. Similarly, truckers may develop wrist and shoulder pain from steering. Truckers can help prevent these repetitive stress injuries by maintaining good physical health, taking frequent rests, and stretching.
Oil industry trucking
In Texas, one type of trucking job is particularly dangerous: oilfield trucking.
One of the obvious reasons for this is that oilfield truckers are routinely dealing with flammable and toxic materials. But, there are a couple of other reasons oilfield trucking is so dangerous.
First, oilfield truckers tend to work very long hours.
“When you’ve been in the oilfield for 10–11 days, working 14 hours a day, you just become so tired that you’re not thinking straight,” experienced trucker James Stroup told Dallas News. “You’re just brain dead because you’re living off four to six hours of sleep.”
Second, many Texas roads aren’t equipped to handle the increased truck traffic associated with the oil industry. Drivers routinely hit sinkholes that can run several feet wide, a phenomenon some blame on fracking.
Route 285, which runs through Pecos, Texas, and serves as one of the main roads used to carry supplies to and from the oilfields in West Texas, is considered one of the deadliest stretches of highway in the United States. The locals call it simply “Death Highway.”
Common trucker injuries
As a result of all the different ways a truck driver can be injured (from unloading cargo to falls to highway accidents), the injuries vary considerably and include:
- Internal injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
Truck injury statistics
Transportation accidents were the leading cause of job fatalities in 2016, resulting in 40% of all workplace deaths.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics data:
- 1 out of every 6 American workers killed on the job is a tractor-trailer truck driver.
- In 2017 alone, 840 tractor-trailer truck drivers were killed while working.
- Tractor-trailer drivers have the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses that require days off from work across all occupations.
- One person is injured or killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes.
Statistics on Truck Accidents
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Legal options as an injured truck driver
In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one suffers a truck injury while on the job, it’s comforting to know there are a couple of options available to ensure you receive compensation for your injuries.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance in Texas that pays medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured as a result of their job. In the vast majority of cases, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation so long as your injury occurred during the course of your employment (i.e., while performing a work task).
Truck drivers can also file a claim for repetitive stress injuries that arise as a result of their jobs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back pain. If an employer denies your work injury claim, you may need to speak with a Texas workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your legal options.
Personal injury lawsuit
Regardless of whether or not you’re able to obtain compensation through a workers’ compensation claim, injured truckers may also be able to seek financial recovery from a third-party if it can be proven that they were at least partly responsible for your injuries. Third-party injury claims may be brought by truckers against manufacturers of faulty truck parts, other drivers, or—in the event that you’re not entitled to workers’ compensation—your employer.
A personal injury lawsuit can also help compensate injured truck drivers for damages that workers’ compensation may not cover, such as the pain and suffering caused by the injury.
In general, workers’ compensation claims are preferable to personal injury lawsuits because you don’t have to prove liability (only that you were injured on the job).