There is no doubt that parts of the U.S. economy depend heavily on the commercial trucking industry. Currently, nearly 70 percent of all the freight moved across the country is transported in semi-trucks, putting over two million of them on the road. This means that motorists cannot avoid sharing the road with these massive vehicles. But while this might make drivers nervous, a shortage of drivers might actually make it dangerous.
National Truck Drivers Shortage Likely to Get Worse
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), there was a shortage of over 50,000 truck drivers in 2017, and the shortage is just getting worse. Reasons cited for the shortage include low pay, demanding working conditions, and a lack of interest in the profession by women and minorities. The current shortage puts motorists at risk in the following ways:
- With few new drivers entering the workforce, the average age of a commercial truck driver is 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Older drivers are more prone to health conditions such as sleep apnea which can lead to careless driving and cause crashes.
- When a particular trucking company is experiencing a shortage of drivers, they may push their current drivers to work longer hours, take less vacation, and carry heavier loads, all of which can be a recipe for disaster on the highway.
While these risks are very real, there may be more danger ahead if the industry is successful in implementing its ideas for a solution.
How Proposed Truck Driver Shortage Solutions May Increase the Danger For Indiana Drivers
Trucking company owners, state and federal legislators, and industry experts have ideas for solving the driver shortage. While some of the solutions, such as increasing driver pay and decreasing work hours, could improve safety, other solutions may do just the opposite. Potentially dangerous solutions include the following:
- Lowering the driving age for truck drivers. Indiana’s own congressman, Trey Hollingsworth, is sponsoring a bill to lower the driving age from 21 to 18 to help meet the demand for truckers. Drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than any other group, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Give them a license to drive a big rig, and the results could be disastrous.
- Autonomous trucks. While this idea is a long way from becoming a reality, turning to autonomous technology to make up for a shortage of drivers raises many safety concerns.
- Recruiting more drivers. If efforts to recruit more drivers are successful, it would mean getting drivers behind the wheel quickly, possibly before they are adequately trained. Also, it’s a simple fact that more trucks on the road will lead to more truck accidents.