Is the Truck Driver Shortage Causing More Accidents?June 7, 2021
Owing to a number of factors, the trucking association is suffering from a shortage of truck drivers. At a time when most consumer and industrial products are transported by truck throughout the United States, this shortage can cause major problems. The trucker shortage has implications for the efficiencies in the industry as well as for the functioning of the broader economy. Yet one of the most serious problems of the trucker shortage has the potential for a much more direct impact for any individual who shares the roads with the massive machines that transport goods: that problem is truck accidents.
What are the Particulars of the Truck Driver Shortage?
According to the American Trucking Association, the transportation of about 70 percent of all freight in the United States is hauled by trucks that transverse the country’s highways and byways. The trucking industry has concerns related to a dearth of commercial truck drivers that is causing problems for the industry. Many trends combine to create the shortage. Industry leaders fear that a shortage of up to 175,000 drivers may occur by 2024, at the same time as the demand for these vital transportation workers continues to increase. As staffing changes and demand affect the landscape of the business, the expectation is that the industry may need to hire nearly 900,000 drivers in the next 10 years.
What are the Reasons for the Lack of Qualified Truck Drivers?
The most pressing concern is that there are not enough workers interested in joining the ranks of truck drivers at the same time as the population of current truckers is retiring at a rapid clip. A new crop of young truckers is not available to replace those drivers who are approaching retirement age. Some of the factors that influence the lack of interest have to do with the lifestyle, the pay, and the culture of the industry.
Lifestyle. Many in the country’s workforce see driving a truck for a living to be lonely and isolating work. The thought of being away from family, friends, and community for long stretches is unappealing to many workers.
Pay. Wages for truck drivers came in at a median rate of $47,130 per year in May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For many, this is hardly a compelling amount to justify so much time away from home.
Culture. Some of the reasons for a lack of interest in trucking jobs is that half the population is essentially left out of many recruiting efforts. Women make up just five percent of the truck driver workforce. The lifestyle and the reputation of trucking as men’s work can be off-putting to many women.
Can Trucking Companies Dealing with the Shortage Cause an Increase in Trucking Accidents?
As trucking companies attempt to work within the constraints of the shortage, some are making dangerous trade-offs to accommodate the demands of the industry while attempting to get the most out of the available pool of workers. Motivation to keep pace with unyielding demands for the transportation of goods and materials can cause companies to make poor business decisions that put their drivers and others in danger. Some instances of this corporate irresponsibility include the following:
Overworked drivers. The methods used to achieve company goals sometimes stretch the workers too thin. Employers may require drivers to work longer than is safe, violating established hours of service regulations. Tired and overworked drivers make lethal mistakes on the road.
Questionable hiring practices. In some cases, the lack of qualified drivers has tempted trucking companies to accept inexperienced or dangerous drivers. The hiring process should include a thorough review of licensing and driving records. Yet, desperate hiring managers may irresponsibly overlook a potential employee’s lack of proper credentials or poor driving history in order to fill the position, allowing ill-equipped or unsafe drivers to operate huge, heavy, and potentially deadly trucks on busy roads crowded with other road users.
Inadequate training. In some of the industry’s most serious cases of irresponsible corporate behavior, trucking companies may shirk their responsibility to adequately train their drivers. In a rush to get the drivers up and running, the training may involve cut corners that can result in an extremely dangerous situation for the driver and everyone traveling along the road nearby.
Other Entities Compromising Road Safety
Outside of the temptations trucking companies face to defy the constraints brought on by the trucker shortage, what other ways does the situation threaten road safety by increasing the risks of trucking accidents?
The trucking companies are not the only entities trying to make do with less. Some other industry players take unacceptable risks in order to push through unrealistic goals by engaging in unsafe practices.
Driver-imposed fatigue. Even when the company sets out to keep drivers from operating unsafely, the drivers themselves may take unnecessary risks by pushing the limits of hours of service regulations, even altering the logs they keep to account for their time. When the work is available for any taker, this can happen despite the risks of driving while sleep deprived or otherwise worn out. This temptation may be harder to resist for independent drivers. After all, the more time they spend on the road, the sooner they can make their delivery and be on to the next trip. This, of course, translates into an opportunity to make more money in less time, a perverse incentive to take unsafe chances.
Overloaded trucks. Shipping or loading companies may be to blame for trucking accidents as well. When these industry partners pack a shipping container or trailer, the shortage of truckers and other related constraints in the industry might cause them to aim to get more into a load than is safe. Overshooting the limits of what can safely be transported in a particular container can cause weight shifting inside the truck that can cause a truck accident.
What Factors Contribute to Trucking Accidents?
The truck driver shortage may play a role in making truck accidents more common. Some of the factors that cause truck accidents involve such risky driving behaviors and other dangers as those listed below:
- Speeding. Drivers who want to make good time and log more trips may be inclined to speed.
- Tailgating. Impatient drivers may travel too closely to the vehicle in front of them.
- Driver fatigue. Drivers may push themselves to unsafe limits.
- Driver distraction. Drivers may become distracted by devices or other implements that they use to pass the time.
- Intoxicated driving. Drivers may make poor decisions about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Overloading. Unsafe decisions to exceed shipment limits can endanger people on the road.
Who can be Held Liable in a Truck Accident?
Liability for a truck accident can fall with the driver, the trucking company, the shipping company, the vehicle maintenance crew, the truck manufacturer, or the producer of a defective auto part, among others.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Know How to Support Claims Involving Liability on the Part of Trucking Industry Players
Whether the responsible party in your accident is the truck driver, their employer, the shipping company, or some other entity, the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help you determine what happened that caused your accident, bring a claim against the at-fault party, negotiate a fair settlement with the related insurance company that takes into account all of your claims for damages, and pursue legal options if an unsatisfactory offer requires litigation. We handle all types of truck accidents in Maryland. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to set up a free case consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.