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America’s Trucker Shortage and How It Can Affect Safety

Big rig trucks, 18-wheelers, and semi-trucks can be found all over our roads, highways and interstates. With trucks so prevalent in society, most people would be surprised to learn this fact: there is currently a shortage of at least 60,000 commercial truck drivers nationwide. One analyst even pegged the shortage to be at least 100,000. Some experts within the industry think the 60,000 shortage could actually triple by the year 2026.

Why the shortage, you may ask? Some experts cite an aging workforce, high turnover rates, and reduced capacity following certain regulatory changes. Lifestyle and safety concerns are also prompting truckers to leave the industry. For example, USA Today named the trucking industry as the 7th most dangerous occupation in the United States. In 2016, the industry saw 24.7 fatalities per 100 workers, and the most common injuries were overexertion and bodily reaction. This may have to do with the toll it takes on one’s body when working extended shifts and having to sit for long periods of time.

To combat the shortage, some trucking companies are forced to raise wages, sometimes as much as 15%. Others are offering generous signing bonuses to new employees. In the meantime, the American Trucking Association states the driver shortage is leading to delayed deliveries and higher prices. However, there are other ways in which a shortage of qualified commercial truck drivers can affect our well-being.

How Trucker Shortages Can Affect Safety

Trucking demand has surged recently, and companies always want to do what’s possible to meet demand and stay busy. A lack of qualified commercial truck drivers can have two negative consequences – pressure to work longer shifts and pressure to lower hiring standards. Both of these can cause big problems for innocent drivers and passengers.

Being a truck driver means signing up for long shifts. Many truckers are on the road for weeks, if not months, at a time, meaning time away from home and their families. With timeliness for deliveries and meeting deadlines at a premium, an desire arises to drive as many consecutive hours as possible for as many consecutive days as possible. Some people may choose to push the limits of their bodies to make this happen. Some drivers could feel pressure from their superiors to act this way too. The link between truck accidents and driver fatigue is well-documented, as being awake for 18 straight hours produces similar effects to having a BAC of 0.08%, higher than the FMCSA intoxication limit of 0.06%.

Facing high demand but limited workers, companies could be incentivized to hire less qualified drivers than preferred. The stakes are higher when commercial vehicles are involved, and federal regulators have taken note. Commercial vehicles involve more than ordinary 18-wheelers and big rig trucks. The definition also includes vehicles designed to transport more than eight passengers and vehicles used to transport hazardous materials or chemicals. As such, trucking companies are bound by law to follow specific guidelines before hiring drivers. For example, drivers must possess a valid commercial driver’s license. Other qualifications involve age, driving experience, health and wellness, and training. There are also prohibitions for drivers convicted of offenses such as DUI and driving a commercial vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher.

Truck safety laws exist to keep members of the public safe. The current trucker shortage could give companies excuses to try to bend these rules in the interest of furthering business purposes. If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent truck driver, you know the toll these types of personal injuries can take on the victim and family. Call the law firm of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz to learn about your options. Our firm has more than 25 years experience litigating commercial trucking accident cases throughout the South, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri, including cities like Memphis, Knoxville, Jackson, Nashville, Tupelo, Little Rock, Jonesboro, and Cape Girardeau. For a free consultation with a truck accident attorney today, call 800-529-4004 or complete our online form.