The American workforce is getting older and shrinking. As more people retire, some employers have a harder time finding replacements. That’s especially true in the trucking industry. Just as in any industry, if you can’t fill an open job, you may lower your standards to increase the pool of candidates. That’s what’s happening in trucking.
How Many Truck Driving Jobs are Unfilled?
The American Trucking Association (ATA) claims there was a shortage of 78,000 commercial drivers in 2022. They also predict that in eight years, this figure will more than double to more than 160,000.
The ATA blames:
- A lack of female job applicants (who are nearly half of the nation’s workforce but less than 10% of commercial truck drivers (and most of them drive school buses))
- Record high wages in other industries
- The difficult lifestyle many drivers live
Retirements may be the biggest threat to the industry:
- The average commercial truck driver is 48
- Three-quarters of drivers are older than 40
- Drivers aged 20 to 30 are only 8% of the workforce
Commercial truckers’ average pay is $70,000 a year, but most drivers won’t last long (95% annual turnover rate, according to the New York Times) because many new drivers see the sacrifices as not worth it. Long-haul drivers are away from their families for long periods, and it’s a dangerous, lonely job that discourages good health (How often would you want to eat at truck stops?).
Is There a Truck Driver Shortage?
Despite what you’ve heard or read, there’s not a shortage of truck drivers, according to the Times. There’s a shortage of people willing to drive commercial trucks, given the pay, benefits, and conditions.
“This shortage narrative is industry lobbying rhetoric,” says Steve Viscelli, a labor expert at the University of Pennsylvania who previously worked as a truck driver. “There is no shortage of truck drivers. These are just really bad jobs.”
There were about ten million Americans with commercial driver’s licenses in 2019, nearly three times the number of commercial trucks (3.7 million).
How Does This Impact Safety?
The federal government, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Labor Department, and the ATA are starting a commercial vehicle driver apprentice program for those 18 to 20 years old. Existing laws only permit those in this age group to drive within state borders. After completing the program, qualified individuals would be approved to drive commercial trucks across state lines, according to Property Casualty 360.
Using a teenage workforce isn’t a good idea:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury and death among young adults, primarily due to three critical errors: lack of scanning, speeding, and distractions
- The National Safety Council reports that teenage drivers are 3.8% of licensed drivers but cause 12.4% of all vehicle accident fatalities
The trucking industry wants teen drivers. They:
- Can be paid less than experienced drivers
- Don’t have the chronic health conditions that keep many older drivers off the road
- Probably won’t have spouses and children to tie them down
- Can increase the pool of job candidates and fill open positions
But if the law considers them so irresponsible they can’t buy alcohol, or rental companies won’t rent them a car, should they be driving a tractor-trailer after many hours, late at night, in bad weather?
Safety Training for New Drivers is Lacking
Police accuse Victor Santos of being drunk when he crashed his tractor-trailer into a school bus in northern Indiana last November. The impact left 16 injured, many of them teenagers. Santos had his own, one truck company, according to WISH, which you can start with only a commercial driver’s license.
“Yes, that individual has a commercial driver’s license, but it’s like giving your 16-year-old the keys to Ferrari, you know, there’s no way they’re going to operate that vehicle safely,” Steve Gold, owner of 160 Driving Academy, the largest commercial driving school in the nation, was quoted as saying.
There are newer truck drivers whose training didn’t put safety first, according to Gold. He says many fatal accidents would’ve been prevented if the truck drivers knew what they were doing. Gold says he works with trucking companies that give more attention to safety, including:
- Performance scoring for drivers
- Helping them get their commercial driver’s licenses
- Adding 50 hours of one-on-one training
Given the demand for drivers, many switch companies after less than a year. This frequent churn makes it harder for trucking companies to track driving records and experience levels, adding to safety concerns.
Gold, referring to truck accidents like the one involving Santos, stated, “That’s what kills me is like, it’s they’re all avoidable.”
Speak To A Truck Accident Lawyer Today
You may be entitled to compensation if you’re injured in an accident involving a commercial truck or vehicle in Kentucky. Satterley & Kelley, PLLC, can and will help you handle insurance and legal matters with confidence.