After thousands of dollars in tuition and years in higher education, sociology graduate student Benjamin Snyder has figured out what so many Americans will never know and what truck drivers learned the first time they got behind the wheel: Being a truck driver is harder than it looks.
And the job is only getting harder, according to Snyder. As companies promise goods to consumers at ever increasing speeds, truck drivers are facing rising pressures to make their deliveries on time. If that was the only pressure drivers faced, their work might not be so grueling. However, many other factors get in the way of drivers doing their job as quickly and safely as possible. There’s the obvious, like weather, traffic, and technical issues, but then there are the regulations that are supposedly meant to help drivers.
HOS, or Hours of Service regulations, were put in place to ensure drivers were rested enough to operate their trucks. Instead of providing more sleep for the drivers, they have created a slew of regulatory issues drivers have to work around to drive as many miles as possible. This leads to a great deal of pressure for truck drivers, all caused by the importance of time in the industry.
Snyder, interested in how time pressure affects trucking and other careers, penned “The Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Flexibilization.” He presented his work at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting on Aug. 6th. Along with this paper, Snyder also published another writing on drivers last fall. This piece, titled “Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification”, discusses some of his conclusions from his years of research.
In his paper, Snyder discusses the effects of the changing marketplace on the body of truck drivers. Snyder remarks on techniques drivers use to remain alert for driving. Some of the tactics Snyder mentions are taking numerous showers at truck stops, using caffeine supplements, and waiting on the sun light to give them a natural boost.
Many of these tricks can lead to other health related issues, which Snyder also saw plenty of during his stint as co-pilot. Besides a lack of quality sleep, the typical unhealthy food options for drivers can lead to diabetes and diabetic symptoms.
Sound familiar? Well it should, Snyder spent three years accompanying drivers on the road and conducting interviews to learn how they managed such unforgiving schedules.
Drivers: Under Appreciated Workers
Much of Snyder’s research centers around “indignity” versus “dignity.” Snyder realized that many truckers battle with both very often. The indignity appears when truckers are told they need a federal institution to regulate when they can drive and when they can sleep. Many drivers, especially veteran drivers, have been wielding their semis for years and know the limits of their body. They know what they must do to make their deliveries and are professionals in their field.
Many common misconceptions of drivers are anything but respectful and neglect the crucial role they play in the economy. Snyder draws the illustration in his writing perfectly; when you purchase a product, you put a trucker’s body in motion. Without them, the goods wouldn’t be delivered and businesses like Amazon would fail.
Snyder also addresses the high levels of dignity many drivers feel with a job well done. Being able to make deliveries on time, especially under the strict HOS rules, can create a huge sense of accomplishment. A great deal of drivers take their work very seriously, so a job well done is important. Also, the amount of awareness and skill necessary to safely maneuver the roadways without incident are a great source of pride.
Clearly, the trucking profession is complex and ever changing. The relationship between the business climate and the trucking industry is a two-way street. With scholars like Benjamin Snyder bringing more awareness to the skill required to be a successful truck driver, more people can have a deeper understanding of the lives affected in delivering the goods they so desperately desire.
Tags: Driver Well-being