Lack of Qualified, Experienced Truck Drivers Creates Hazardous Driving Conditions
Truck drivers’ wages have been steadily increasing, and it appears this trend will continue through 2019.
Nevertheless, the trucking industry continues to face a shortage of drivers. This is in part due to the fact that truck drivers often work long hours, away from friends and family. During times of low national unemployment, many potential drivers find work in other industries that offer better pay and more stable hours.
In fact, the trucker shortage has been so bad that some shipping companies have had to temporarily turn away orders.
The shortage of qualified truck drivers affects the entire American economy, as almost 70% of freight is moved on U.S. highways.
In addition to driving up the cost of consumer goods, the trucker shortage has the potential to create unsafe conditions on our roadways as fewer drivers are asked to carry more of the shipping burden.
Businesses Pressure Truck Drivers to Work Long Hours, Increasing Driver Fatigue
The demand for truck drivers continues to increase as Americans consume more than ever. And with the increased popularity of companies like Amazon that rely on the quick delivery of goods as a primary component of their business model, drivers are pressured to to drive as many consecutive days for as many hours as possible. This forces drivers to push their limits, and even violate hours of service regulations.
The link between driver fatigue and truck accidents is well documented. Some studies find that being awake for 18 hours is almost the same as driving with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .08%. This is higher than the FMCSA legal intoxication limit of .06%.
Trucker Shortage Caused By Lack of Qualified and Experienced Truck Drivers
Trucking companies are required to hire drivers who have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The class of CDL is based primarily on the size and weight rating of the vehicle and the load the driver will be hauling.
Anyone driving a vehicle with a total weight rating of 26,001 pounds, provided that the towed vehicle has a weight rating of at least 10,000 pounds, must have a Class A CDL.
Drivers operating vehicles with a single vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more are required to have a Class B CDL.
Drivers who transport hazardous materials but that do not fall into Class A or Class B are required to have a Class C CDL.
In addition, special endorsements are required for operating certain types of vehicles.
A T endorsement is required for towing a double or triple trailer.
An N endorsement is required for tankers.
An H endorsement is required for hazardous materials.
An X endorsement is required for tankers hauling hazardous materials.
A P endorsement is required for vehicles that transport passengers.
However, a CDL is not the only requirement to be hired as a commercial driver. In addition, most trucking companies try to hire drivers who have at least 2 years of experience driving a commercial vehicle before they begin driving large trucks.
But if trucking companies cannot find drivers who have both a CDL and experience, they may need to hire inexperienced drivers who have the minimum qualifications. And for trucking companies that lease their fleets, the problem is even worse. Trucking companies that lease their fleets may pay several thousands dollars per month to lease the trucks, and will need to pay this money regardless of whether or not the vehicle is in service. This means that trucking companies that lease their fleets will be pressured to put anyone with the minimum qualifications behind the wheel to remain profitable.
The problem is made worse by the fact that there are no requirements that a commercial driver complete an accredited training program in order to obtain a CDL. While many schools offer commercial driving programs, not all trucking companies require that their employees graduate. And with fewer drivers available, it is even less likely that trucking companies will require that their drivers have graduated from an accredited commercial truck driving program.
To combat the trucker shortage, the FMCSA proposed the Under 21 Military CDL Program - a 3 year pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18-20 who have served in the military to obtain a commercial driver's’ license at age 18, rather than having to wait until age 21. The FMCSA will compare the records of participating drivers against a control group of drivers aged 21-24 who have a commercial driver’s license and comparable driving experience.
While the results aren’t yet in, most people know anecdotally that experience is a factor in preventing wrecks.
Inexperienced Truck Drivers Increase Risk of Catastrophic Accidents
Many catastrophic truck accidents are caused by preventable factors, including driver fatigue, distracted driving, high driver turnover, and negligent driving behavior. In fact, the FMCSA reports that 31% of fatal truck crashes were due to driver error. With more inexperienced truck drivers on the road, these statistics are likely to increase.
Driver inexperience leads to increased risk of accidents due to:
Poor understanding and application of height restrictions
Inability to correctly assess the truck’s turning radius
Difficulty handling a truck on an incline
Incorrectly distributed load weight
Improperly logging hours of service to comply with federal hours of service regulations
Driving trucks in adverse weather
Difficulty driving trucks through busy locations and traffic jams
Poor response to road hazards such as road debris
Robenalt Law Fights for People Injured in Catastrophic Trucking Accidents
The experienced truck accident lawyers at Robenalt Law fight people who have been catastrophically injured in a truck accident. We thoroughly investigate the accident to uncover the cause of the crash, and fight to bring the people and companies responsible to justice.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured to secure compensation for trucking accidents.
Thomas D. Robenalt
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