Trucking accidents occur throughout the United States because of many factors. Any time a motorist shares the roadways with 18-wheelers or large trucks, the possibility of an accident is a realistic possibility and can be fatal. In fact, a total of 3 602 people have died in large truck crashes in 2013. To get a better grasp on what this means, 16 percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The causes of these accidents can range from truck braking capabilities, bad weather, driver experience and ultimately driver fatigue.
Drivers of large trucks are actually allotted the capability to drive up to 11 hours at a time and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. However, surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted . Given that reasoning, having a trucker shortage is just another cause for drivers to be fatigued at the wheel. The stress of handling shipments across the United States can be extremely demanding on overworked drivers. And a problem such as this should be at the top of the agenda for lawmakers due to the importance truckers to the U.S. economy.
The trucking industry is one of the core parts of the U.S. economy. Nearly 70 percent of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks. Without the industry and truck drivers, the economy could come to a standstill. In effect, to move 9.2 billion tons of freight annually requires nearly 3 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks and over 3 million truck drivers. It also takes just over 37 billion gallons of diesel fuel to move all of that freight around the country. Without competent truck drivers, America is in trouble .
A Shortage of Drivers
Unfortunately, the for-hire trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers. All the while, the national unemployment rate is decreasing by percentages, this industry in particular is still struggling to find enough qualified drivers. The current shortage of roughly 38,000 drivers is due to a variety of reasons including demographic, regulations and the fact that drivers are away from home for a period time, among other factors not mentioned. One of the largest factors in the shortage is that the current average driver age in the industry is 49 and normally carriers pool from half of the population—men.
Many carriers, despite having a shortage of drivers are highly selective in hiring drivers because they have made safety and professionalism high priorities. However, this also increases the costs financially and health-wise for both drivers and carriers. As driver pay increases due to the shortage, it has a significant impact on fleets. As the volumes increase, the existing driver pool is then strained. Carriers face a quality versus quantity issue due to history, experience and other performance factors. Regardless of employment applications, in 2012, 88% of fleets said that most applicants are simply not qualified. But when thinking about how many new drivers the trucking industry will need to hire (a staggering 890,000), replacing retiring truck drivers with new applicants and adding additional truckers to an expanding industry will be problematic without several courses of action.
Therefore, congress and trucking industry lobbyists have attempted to legislatively increase the number of drivers in order to relieve these tired drivers by requesting a decrease in the required age for interstate drivers to include 18-20 year olds. The 18-20 year old segment has the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, yet this is an entire segment that the industry cannot access .
Senate Bill 1672
Currently, national law requires that truck drivers need to be 21 years or older to be able to drive across state boarders or interstate driving. Many sponsors of this bill, including economists believe that this legislation would help boost the unemployment rate among young people, with an expected 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. It would also take the burden off of the current drivers who are too worn-down to drive safely and effectively.
- 1672: “In general, the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shall establish a test program to allow States and the District of Columbia to enter into interstate compacts with contiguous States to standardize the requirements for drivers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.”
The driver’s licenses that would be issued by 1 State would then be recognized as valid in every other state that is participating in the same compact. In order for this to work, all the participating states need to provide the minimum license standards that would be acceptable for interstate travel for drivers under the age of 21 such as:
- age restrictions;
- distance from origin (measured in air miles);
- reporting requirements; or
- additional hours of service restrictions 
However, if the senate were to pass this bill, it would have to consider the accident statistics that plague inexperienced drivers. For instance, according to the Transportation Department’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, drivers between the ages of 18-20 has a fatal crash rate that was 66% higher than drivers 21 years or older. This statistic has a large projected increase in crashes for trucks and has met heavy criticism from other senators and citizens. It brings up the question of whether the legislation will aid in helping fatigued drivers cause less accidents or in reality lead to an increase of accidents due to lack of experience .
However, the American Trucking Associations back the legislation stating that by allowing high school graduates to start at “apprentices” would help counter a growing shortage of qualified truck drivers and give young people interested in trucking a career path. ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement,” It is illogical that a 20 year old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas—or simply cross the street in Texarkana.”
Dolman Law Group
Fatigued drivers on the road account for the nearly 32,000 commercial truck accidents that occur in Florida. By instituting the 1672 senate bill, backed by the ATA, there could be a solution that would lower the possibility of an accident due to an overworked driver. However, just with any solution to an issue, there’s not perfect way to completely cover all aspects of a given problem. Truck accidents will still occur, regardless of age or experience. This is when you need a knowledgeable truck accident attorney who can help victims get the recovery they deserve.
Truck accidents often leave victims with extremely significant injuries and medical expenses. These injuries often lead to the inability of working for an extended period of time, if ever again. However, our team at Dolman Law Group can look over your personal injury claim and determine if your losses are compensable. We are committed to helping people who have been injured in preventable accidents that is due to a shortage in the trucking industry. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our New Port Richey office today at (727) 853-6275.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652