Some people who've never had to drive professionally imagine it's an easy, even mindless task. However, this isn't your simple daily commute. We're talking about driving across town multiple times in a day, across the state or even across the country. Professional drivers need to navigate all kinds of unfamiliar roads, a variety of driving conditions and tight deadlines in order to make their paycheck.
Professional drivers are also part of the most dangerous career available in the United States. Transportation is the industry with the biggest risk of injury or death. Traveling at high speeds for extended hours creates the potential for a serious collision with injuries or worse. Sadly, many truckers and other professional drivers may not realize that workers' compensation could cover medical expenses and lost wages after a serious accident.
Are you a contractor or an employee?
One common issue that prevents some professional drivers from obtaining workers' compensation benefits for crash-related injuries is their employment status. Many companies classify professional drivers as contractors. In many cases, however, doing so is a paper game intended to reduce liability for things like workers' compensation benefits and taxes.
Generally speaking, Pennsylvania assumes workers are employees unless proven otherwise, due to high rates of abuse. In order for your employer to legally have a contractor relationship with you, you should have a written contract about the services you provide. Contractors are engaged in an independently established trade or business. They are also free from control or direction regarding the services they provide. The company can't tell you what to do, when to do it or how to complete a task. Plenty of transportation contractors with only one client are really employees.
There are many kinds of injuries truckers experience
For most people, the obvious source of injury would be a crash or collision with another vehicle. A crash can cause broken limbs, head trauma, spinal cord damage and even death. There are many laws in place, from restrictions on how long a trucker can drive to requirements for education intended to reduce the risk posed by commercial transportation.
However, traumatic accidents are not the only source of injury for truckers. Many drivers end up helping with the loading or unloading process. This can lead to back, knee or other joint or soft tissue injuries. Even truckers who are only driving could end up hurt without ever getting into an accident.
Sitting all day can cause strain to muscles and joints. Holding the steering wheel can also cause repetitive stress damage to your arms and hands. Professional drivers who develop repetitive stress injuries or those who have a major collision could qualify for workers' compensation benefits in many cases.