The United States is currently facing a severe shortage of truck drivers. While this fact is alarming, it isn’t surprising. Driving a semi-truck is hard:
- There are the long days and weeks—sometimes even months—away from home.
- Myriad health problems can arise from sitting behind the wheel all day.
- Drivers often face long, grueling hours behind the wheel at any given time.
Moreover, truck drivers face a higher risk of dying on the job than many other professions. Some reports state truck drivers represent upwards of 12 percent of all work-related fatalities in the U.S.
Truck Driver Shortage Leads to Rule Changes
Because of the truck driver shortage, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has relaxed rules for new drivers that the industry hopes will ease the shortage of drivers. The first change waives the CDL knowledge test for veterans, reserves and National Guard truck drivers. The second change is extending the expiration of the CDL learner’s permit from six months to one year. In addition, the FMCSA delayed the implementation of new minimum training standards for drivers seeking a CDL license.
Trucking Companies Hiring Potentially Unsuitable Drivers
The shortage of drivers shows itself in the average age of truck drivers—52. Young people are simply not entering the industry as they once did. Annual turnover is also very high. This creates a variety of problems, including more stress for the reduced number of drivers and more pressure to cut corners to deliver loads on time.
To build up their depleted driving corps, some trucking companies are now hiring ex-convicts to drive—something they would not have considered even a few years ago. Additionally, companies are purposely seeking older career-changers—drivers who have done other things and want to try something different.
Uncertified CDL Schools Hurt Drivers and the Public
Recent news stories report uncertified and even fraudulent training schools in New York, Kansas, Virginia, and elsewhere, putting inadequately trained drivers on the road. One way that operators of uncertified training programs get around certification requirements is to claim that they are not running a school. But without certification, these so-called programs are running without oversight, proper standards, proper equipment and more. And more drivers are getting on the road without proper training.
Poor training often results in drivers taking unnecessary risks, failing to learn the rules of the road, and deliberately ignoring safety procedures that could slow them down. Poorly trained drivers speed, make unsafe lane changes, fail to perform required safety checks, drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and violate rest requirements.
Consequences of Poor Training: More Fatal Truck Accidents
The result of poor training is a growing number of unsafe truck drivers on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, truck accident fatalities increased every year between 2009 and 2015. The trend is likely to continue. Unsafe drivers cause catastrophic accidents and injuries, leaving families grieving after the death of a loved one or a driver with life altering injuries that could keep a driver off the road and out of work for life.
Trucking companies have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are properly trained. When they fail to assume that responsibility, they can be held liable for the fatalities and injuries they cause. If you’ve been hurt in a truck crash and you believe improper training and poor driver safety measures were at fault, be sure to speak with a lawyer immediately.