18-wheelers, semi-trucks and big rig trucks are seen on all roads from interstates to highways. With these vehicles everywhere, most people will be surprised to learn that there is a shortage of around 60,000 commercial truck drivers. One analysis has placed this shortage at around 100,000. There are also experts in the industry that believe this shortage will triple by 2026.
You might wonder why there is a shortage of drivers. Some experts link the decline to an aging workforce, a reduced capacity after certain regulatory changes and the high turnover rates. Safety and lifestyle concerns have also led to truckers leaving the industry. According to USA Today, trucking is the 7th most dangerous occupation in the country. This industry saw 24,7 fatalities per 100 works in 2016 and the most common injuries are bodily reactions and overexertion. The strain of the job will take its toll on the body as truckers work extended shifts and prolonged periods of sitting.
In order to tackle this shortage, many companies are raising their wages as much as 15%. There are other companies that offer signing bonuses for any new employees. The American Trucking Association has stated that this driver shortage will lead to delivery delays and higher prices. There are a lot of different ways that this shortage can affect everyone’s well-being.
How The Shortage Could Affect Safety On The Roads
The demand for trucking has increased and companies are trying to meet the demand. The lack of qualified drivers is causing a problem as there are 2 major impacts on the industry as a whole. The first is that current truckers have to work longer shifts. The second is that demand pressure leads to lower hiring standards. Both of these issues will cause problems for other road users.
Being a trucker means signing up for long shifts. A lot of truckers are on the road for weeks or months at a time which means a lot of time away from their homes and families. Meeting delivery deadlines are a must and the desire to drive for as many hours as possible is tempting. There are some truckers who push the limits of their bodies to achieve this.
Some of these drivers will feel under pressure from their bosses to do this. The problem is that this will increase the chances of an accident. There is a clear link between driver fatigue and accidents. Additionally, being awake for 18 hours on the road will have a similar effect as a BAC of 0.08% which is higher than the intoxication limit of 0.06%.
With the high demand and limited drivers, companies are looking to hire less qualified drivers. This has caused federal regulators to take note because of the high stakes. Commercial vehicles are more than 18-wheelers and big rig trucks as they include vehicles that transport more than 8 passengers. With this being the case, trucking companies have to follow laws and guidelines for hiring drivers.
These regulations include the driver having a valid commercial driver’s license. The other qualifications include driving experience, age, training and health, and wellness. There are also some prohibitions that need to be followed for drivers who have certain offenses like driving a commercial vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more and a DUI.
The laws regarding truck safety are there to keep the public safe. The problem is that the current shortage of drivers is providing the trucking companies with an excuse to bend the rules. This is done to further their business interests without care for the general public. This can lead to accidents that cause serious injuries for both truck drivers and other road users.