The Shortage Of Truck Drivers And The Effects On Safety
With the high visibility of big rig trucks, 18-wheelers, and semi-trucks appearing on all roads in the U.S. from interstates to highways, it may come as a surprise to most people that there is a huge shortage of commercial truck drivers all over the country. The figure is estimated to be 60,000, however, according to one analysis, it can be as high as 100,000 with experts in the industry predicting that it will triple by 2026.
But why is there such a shortage of truck drivers? Experts in the industry link the decline to things like an aging workforce, high turnover rates, and reduced capacity due to regulatory changes. A major reason for leaving the industry can be contributed to safety and lifestyle concerns According to USA Today, truck driving is the seventh most dangerous occupation in America. In 2016 alone there were 24.7 fatalities per 100 drivers with the most common injuries including overexertion and impaired bodily reactions due to the strain of the job. Trucking takes its toll on the bodies of truckers who have to work extended shifts because of the shortage and prolonged periods of sitting in one position.
Many companies are increasing wages by as much as 15% to tackle the shortage and some offer signing bonuses for new employees. There are many different ways in which the shortage affects the well-being of everyone in the country. According to the American Trucking Association, the shortage can lead to delivery delays and increased prices.
How the Truck Driver Shortage can Affect Safety on the Roads
As the demand for truck drivers increases it can impact the industry as a whole in two ways, both of which will cause problems for other road users.
Firstly truck drivers will have to work longer shifts that cause fatigue, resulting in an increased risk of accidents.
Secondly, the lack of qualified drivers will lead to a demand pressure that will lower hiring standards as companies try to meet the demand.
Truck driving means signing up for long shifts that take a lot of time away from family and home. Some truckers are on the road for periods of weeks or even months at a time. The pressure to meet delivery deadlines tempts drivers to work as many hours as possible and often truckers push their bodies to the limits to achieve this.
Some company bosses put their drivers under pressure to achieve delivery deadlines in order to reach their targets. This can cause drivers to take chances that could cause accidents as there is a definite link between driver fatigue and vehicle accidents. It has been found that staying awake for more than 18 hours while driving can have almost the same effect as a 0.08% BAC – which is higher than the limit of 0.6%.
The high demand for truck drivers and the limited number of drivers available has resulted in companies looking to hire less qualified drivers. Apart from big rig trucks and 18-wheelers, commercial vehicles also include those that transport more than 8 passengers. Because of the high stakes involved, federal regulators have taken note, which means that companies have to abide by certain laws and regulations for hiring truck drivers.
These guidelines and regulations require drivers to have a valid commercial vehicle driver’s license and include other qualifications like age, driving experience, health and wellness, and proper training. Some prohibitions are also in place for truck drivers with offenses like driving with a BAC concentration of more than 0.04% and a DUI offense.
These laws have been put in place to protect the safety of the public. The problem, however, is that trucking companies are using the shortage as an excuse to bend the rules in order to further their business interests without due care for the safety of the general public. This situation can lead to serious accidents that can cause injuries to both drivers and other road users.