There are too few truck drivers in the United States today. Trucks.com reported on a survey of leaders from 2,200 trucking companies and, by a margin of two to one, those leaders all described staffing problems as their biggest concern for their company's success. Staffing problems are going to get worse over the next decade, as the amount of freight moved by trucks is expected to go up 27 percent over this time period. Most experts suggest that to accommodate all of the freight that must be moved, 96,000 people a year need to decide to become truck drivers.
If the number of new truckers entering the industry is not able to keep pace with demand for hiring these new truckers, trucking companies are likely to relax hiring standards. Some trucking companies may also encourage truck drivers to violate rules that are aimed at protecting the public from truck collisions. The bottom line is, there are many different ways that the trucker shortage could cause the roads to become less safe and could cause a major increase in the number of truck accidents occurring.
The worsening trucker shortage could make roads less safe for lots of different reasons. For example:
- Trucking companies could encourage drivers to violate hours-of-service rule, or truck drivers could make this decision themselves under pressure to meet demand. Hours-of-service rules limit hours driven by truckers before a rest break and the goal of these important rules is to prevent drowsy driving truck accidents.
- Trucking companies could hire less qualified drivers: Trucking companies may feel as if they have no choice but to hire drivers who have only minimum experience or who may not be as well-trained or as skilled as the companies would otherwise prefer.
- The workforce of truckers is getting older. Since young people are not entering the profession, the overall age of truckers on the roads is aging. Seniors are also starting second careers as truck drivers, and trucking companies may hire these older truckers in increasing numbers. CBS warns of the aging workforce of truckers, reporting that there has been a 19 percent increase in the last three years in accidents involving commercial truck drivers in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Trucking companies need to maintain good hiring practices and follow the rules, even if there is a shortage of drivers. If a trucking company is negligent in its screening process for new drivers or if its hiring practices fall below accepted standards for safety, the trucking company can be held legally liable for any accidents which occur as a result of the company's negligence. If the truck drivers these companies hire are negligent in performing their work duties, the trucking company can also be held liable for injuries in truck collisions caused by the employee's negligence while on duty.