Driving a truck is a dangerous task that requires immense training and skill. Since truckers operate vehicles that weigh in excess of 80,000-lbs, any crash that involves a big rig often has catastrophic consequences. Given the risks, truckers must exercise extreme focus and caution while driving. Even a short lapse in their attention can cause a devastating accident.
Unfortunately, however, the current truck driver shortage has led some trucking companies to hire younger, more inexperienced drivers who may not have sufficient expertise to operate a big rig safely.
Why Are Trucking Companies Hiring Inexperienced Drivers?
The last few years have seen a widespread shortage of drivers in the trucking industry, and this trend is predicted to continue. In fact, the American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that if current trends continue, the industry may face a shortage of 175,000 drivers by 2024. Moreover, according to the ATA, the trucking industry will need to bring in an estimated 900,000 new drivers to meet rising demand over the next decade.
Several factors contributing to the truck driver shortage include:
- The current average age for truckers in the United States is 48 years old, which means much of the workforce will soon retire.
- The average annual turnover rate for long-haul truckers at large trucking companies has been greater than 90% for decades.
- Truckers often work 60-70 hours per week and are paid per mile driven instead of an hourly rate, which can prove a major deterrent to staying in the industry.
- Truckers sacrifice their health by sleeping in their truck berths, eating a poor diet composed of food they can find along their routes, and sitting down far longer than workers in other industries.
Since the trucking industry is facing a deficit of nearly one million drivers in the next ten years, trucking companies may be forced to hire drivers they would not typically consider—including young drivers with little to no commercial driving experience.
What’s Wrong with Hiring Younger Truck Drivers?
The ATA is now pushing Congress to pass the DRIVE Safe Act, which will lower the legal age for interstate commercial driving from 21 years old to 18 years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen drivers aged 16–19 are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash. These risks are also much greater for males than females of the same age. Given the fact that over 90% of truck drivers are male, these statistics signal growing risks in the trucking industry if the trend of hiring younger drivers continues.
What’s the Solution to the Truck Driver Shortage?
The future demographics of the trucking industry may depend on whether Congress passes the DRIVE Safe Act. However, whether the trucking industry is largely composed of younger or older drivers in the coming years, the updated curriculum for commercial drivers proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may help ensure that entry-level truckers, both young and old, receive standardized training. The proposed curriculum criteria include:
- Basic vehicle operation and control systems
- Pre- and post-trip inspections
- Backing and docking
- Distracted driving
- Roadside inspections
Some private companies may take matters into their own hands with specialized training programs. Still, these measures—whether implemented by private companies or government agencies—may not be able to overcome the influx of younger entry-level truck drivers if the DRIVE Safe Act passes.
Injured in a Truck Crash? Contact Us Today
If you or someone you love has been harmed in a truck crash, Wisner Baum is here to help. Throughout the last four decades, our Los Angeles trial attorneys have achieved national recognition in truck accident law, and we have secured many multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for those injured in truck crashes. When the stakes are this high, you need a high-powered law firm that has the experience and resources necessary to take on trucking companies and their insurers. Wisner Baum is here to do that for you.
Call (855) 948-5098 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.