There are not enough truck drivers in the United States. Estimates in 2018 suggested more 60, 000 more drivers were needed and this number could triple by 2026. Some truck drivers have retired while others have moved on to jobs that are safer, less demanding or more lucrative. At the same time, more goods need to be transported than ever. This means drivers feel pressured to work longer shifts or companies hire unqualified and unsuitable drivers. There are concerns that this is making the country’s roads less safe.
Dangers of driver fatigue
Industry professionals, including semi-truck accident lawyers with years of valuable experience, see the pressure drivers are under these days. Driving a big-rig, 18-wheeler or semi-truck always involved long hours. Many truck drivers are away from home for weeks or months and they have tight timelines for deliveries. There is a temptation to drive for as many hours as possible or work as many days in a row as possible. Some drivers rely on caffeine or other stimulants to keep them going even when their bodies are crying out for rest. With the truck driver shortage, many feel pressured by their employers to work even more.
It has been proven that being awake for 18 hours straight has the same effect as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. For comparison, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes a limit of 0.06 percent on commercial drivers. This makes it clear just how dangerous it is to drive while fatigued. Drivers who are exhausted have poor reaction times and reduced focus. They may even fall asleep at the wheel and cause injuries to themselves and other road users.
Risks of Hiring Unsuitable Drivers
Not all trucking companies make their workers feel like they have to push even harder. Some just hire less qualified and experienced drivers to help them meet the demand. It should be noted that there are specific laws governing the hiring of commercial drivers. However, many companies flout the law in the name of profit and making deliveries on time.
Truck drivers are required to have a valid commercial driver’s license. To even apply for this, they must be at least 21 years old if they will drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials. They must also have no criminal offenses in their history which could disqualify them. Then, there are the tests they must take to get the license.
All these regulations are in place because commercial vehicles need to be handled differently than a small passenger car. Many fatal accidents involve semi-trucks so the stakes are very high. If a driver doesn’t know how to drive with a heavy load, properly secure cargo or navigate wet roads, he can cause untold damage.
There is no doubt that the current shortage of truck drivers can make America’s roads less safe. Drivers who are unqualified or those who are exhausted can’t make the kinds of decisions which are necessary to protect themselves and others. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, be sure to contact an attorney for advice and representation.