Based on my formative experiences with BJ and the Bear reruns, I’ve long imagined the archetypal American trucker as a picture of health. But the men and women who brings goods to market are actually a pretty grizzled lot these days (PDF):
The average age of a truck driver in the United States is over 48 years. Since 2000, the number of service and truck drivers 55 or older has surged 19%, to about 616,000, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That age figure is particularly disturbing in light of the shorter-than-average life expectancies of truckers (also PDF):
Data on active OOIDA members who had died suggest that the average age of death for OOIDA members is only 55.7 years. While this sample is not random and is biased toward those actively in the work force and under special pressures encountered by owner-operators, at face value Mr. Siebert considered these numbers alarming. Using OOIDA member data, he reported that 49.5% of OOIDA members were obese, compared to only 31% of the overall U.S. population. Only 12.7% of OOIDA members were normal weight, compared to 36% of the overall U.S. population. Mr. Siebert also reported that 13 out of 430 recent OOIDA deaths (3%) were from suicide.
The question I’ve yet to see adequately addressed is why the truck-driving profession is having such a tough time attracting young blood. The most common explanation is that companies are reluctant to add payroll, and are thus driving their older employees into the ground, so to speak. But my hunch is that there’s something innate to the profession that doesn’t sit well with folks in their twenties. The sense of isolation, perhaps?