Unsafe at current speed
Mona Shattell co-authors strong New York Times op-ed on trucker health
March 9, 2016 – Today the New York Times published “Long-Haul Sweatshops,” an op-ed about the tough working conditions U.S. truckers face. In the piece, ethnographic researcher Anne Balay and nursing scholar Mona Shattell argue that current national policies focus on road safety, but not the safety of the truckers themselves. Drivers today must endure long hours as well as “abusive amounts of surveillance and micromanaging.” The piece notes that the U.S. economy remains highly dependent on 18-wheel trucking. And the work has attractive features, including the sense of doing highly demanding, meaningful work. But drivers are leaving the job because of the relatively low pay and poor conditions. Road safety is a real issue, the authors concede—“highway accidents involving semis kill about 5,000 people per year.” But they argue that our focus on having regulation done largely by the Department of Transportation (through measures like maximum driving hours) leaves drivers open to other abuses, including working “14-hour days routinely and continuously, often without weekends, sick pay or holiday pay.” Apparently, drivers can now legally work as many as 82 hours per week. Meanwhile, surveillance has increased. Truckers have their routes and sleep times dictated; they may no longer fully control their own trucks, which may be unable to go over a certain speed; and “some companies even have two-way cameras trained on truck drivers 24/7.” These rules drive experienced drivers away and permit employers to return drivers to the road too soon, so they may be “unrested and irritated.” The authors advocate a “straightforward” solution: “Congress needs to give the Department of Labor the power to regulate truck drivers’ working conditions.” They conclude that the best way to protect all drivers is to protect the truckers beside them on the roads. This piece presents a nursing scholar as an expert, forcefully and persuasively making a key public health argument in a prominent forum. And it does a good job of identifying Shattell, who is on the Truth About Nursing’s advisory panel. The op-ed not only notes at the end that she is a “professor of nursing at Rush University,” but also explains in the text that “Professor Shattell” is “a researcher and registered nurse who has studied the mental, physical and sexual health of truckers.” (The piece also says that ethnographic researcher and Professor Balay is a former long-haul trucker herself.) Mentioning Shattell’s PhD would have been even better. In any case, the op-ed is very helpful, and we thank Mona Shattell, Anne Balay, and the Times.
See the op-ed “Long-Haul Sweatshops,” by Anne Balay and Mona Shattell, which appeared in the New York Times on March 9, 2016.
Also see other pieces by these authors: