The Truck Driver Shortage Is Getting Worse — And More Dangerous
The trucking industry’s driver shortage isn’t improving, and it’s getting worse — fast.
Back in 2015, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated that the trucking industry could face a shortfall of almost 74,000 drivers by the end of 2016.
Based on more recent projections, though, that figure looks modest. The newest report from the ATA suggests that if current trends continue, the industry may face a shortage of 175,000 drivers by 2024. The report also warns that over the next decade, the industry will need to hire almost 900,000 new drivers to meet rising demand.
Read on to learn more about the factors behind this trucking industry crisis and how it could lead to rising rates of deadly truck accidents on our highways.
Low Pay and Long Hours Are Pushing Younger Workers Away From Truck Driving Careers
The trucking industry has struggled with major issues behind the driver shortage for more than a decade. However, low demand after the 2008–2009 financial crisis meant that trucking companies didn’t feel the impact right away.
However, as the economy continues to recover and e-commerce sites like Amazon surge in popularity, freight volumes have skyrocketed. Now the driver shortage problem has started to restrict trucking companies’ ability to meet demand.
One of the industry’s biggest problems involves attracting younger drivers from diverse backgrounds. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average American truck driver is 55 years old, which is about 10 years older than the average age across other comparable industries like manufacturing and construction. In addition, the ATA reports that 94 percent of all truck drivers are male.
Trucking industry experts have pointed to a variety of reasons why younger Americans tend not to consider truck driving as a career. These include declining pay rates for truckers compared to jobs with similar skill requirements. There is also an overall lack of appeal for the lonely, demanding lifestyle of a long-haul trucker. And with men doing almost all of the driving, training, and hiring, the industry simply doesn’t seem welcoming to most women.
Some forward-thinking companies have tried to come up with incentives and benefits programs that could make driving a truck more attractive. For example, companies have tried increasing pay, improving schedules, providing more time off, offering health benefits, creating performance-related incentives, and giving new drivers first-year advancement opportunities.
Unfortunately, these progressive trucking companies only make up a small minority of the industry. Most companies remain consumed with business as usual, even as it becomes increasingly clear that the driver shortage won’t turn around on its own.
How Does the Trucking Industry’s Driver Shortage Increase the Risk for Deadly Truck Wrecks?
The truck driver shortage could grow to the point that it places real constraints on the growth of the U.S. economy, but that’s not the most worrying outcome that may follow from the industry’s employment crisis. The real danger is that the driver shortage leads to higher rates of devastating truck crashes, which have already been rising at an alarming pace in recent years.
The trucking industry needs to comprehensively address the shortage and start hiring and properly training new drivers. Until then, ethical and responsible trucking companies have only one real option to deal with this crisis. They’ll need to turn down business opportunities until they have enough experienced and properly-trained drivers to meet demand.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of unsafe and unscrupulous trucking companies out there, and some of these companies will inevitably start loosening their hiring and training standards rather than let the driver shortage impact their profits. This means an increased number of inexperienced, undertrained, and dangerous drivers behind the wheels of tractor-trailers and other commercial trucks.
Inexperienced drivers pose real risks on highways. In January 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a study showing that truck drivers with less than 5 years of experience were 41 percent more likely to cause a crash compared to drivers with 5 or more years of experience. Combine inexperience with hasty training because of a rush to get drivers on the road, and the risk of a crash gets even higher.
When these high-risk drivers cause crashes, ordinary drivers and hard-working, experienced truck drivers will be the ones who have to pay the price. Unfortunately, until the trucking industry gets serious about addressing its driver shortage, that’s likely to happen more and more often.
Contact Seattle Truck Law if You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck crash, especially if the trucking company hired an inexperienced or dangerous driver, Seattle Truck Law Attorney Morgan Adams is here to help. With years of experience and a sole focus on large vehicle cases, Mr. Adams is a powerful advocate for trucking accident victims and an experienced trial lawyer who won’t hesitate to fight for your rights in court.
Please call Seattle Truck Law at 866-580-HURT (4878) or fill out our online contact form if you need help. We offer free consultations to help you understand your legal options, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you’ll only pay fees or case expenses if we get you a settlement or win your case in court.
Costello, B. (2017, October). Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2017. Arlington, VA: American Trucking Associations. Retrieved from http://progressive1.acs.playstream.com/truckline/progressive/ATAs%20Driver%20Shortage%20Report%202017.pdf
Raphelson, S. (2018, January 9). Trucking industry struggles with growing driver shortage. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/01/09/576752327/trucking-industry-struggles-with-growing-driver-shortage
United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2017, January 1). Analysis of driver critical reason and years of driving experience in large truck crashes, analysis brief (Report no. RRA-16-014b). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/31693
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.