Since 2005, the American Trucking Association (ATA) has been decrying the existence of a truck driver shortage among active truck drivers. They routinely claim that there are 60,000 fewer truck drivers on the road than there needs to be to meet the demand. They point to certain statistics including the average American truck is male and over the age of 55 and are actively recruiting new drivers to the trade. While some believe that this present situation is one possible cause of the increasing number of truck accidents on the road, others attribute the uptick to other circumstances, such as the volume of drivers on the road, and claim the entire thing is “fake news.” Here, we’ll take a look at the consequences of a theoretical trucking shortage and discuss the merits of the argument from a personal injury standpoint.
Is There a Driving Shortage?
The ATA may have its reasons for raising the labor alarm when it comes to truck drivers, but there are those who believe that the numbers are vastly inflated. Of course, there are two markets at play here. There is a market for interested blue-collar workers who are interested in trucking and there is a market for truck deliveries. By raising the alarm, the ATA is saying that the demand for trucking is sufficiently high to require an additional 60,000 more truckers on the road. Yet the supply of truckers is not rising to meet this number. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a different interpretation of the numbers.
Firstly, they note, if there is a shortage, it is only concentrated in long-distance truckload motor freight, or the guys you see driving long distances, sleeping on the road, and otherwise spending time away from their families. They also state that this shortage, like any shortage, should right itself eventually as would the market for any blue-collar labor gig. This is despite the fact that the ATA has been claiming there’s a shortage since 2005.
There is a second pressure that is being exerted on the industry as a whole and this especially concerns interstate truckers. The folks aren’t regulated at the state level nor are they subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Instead, they have hours of service restrictions that require them to take periodic rest breaks, cap how many hours they’re allowed to work in a week or a day, and otherwise put constraints on individual drivers. This, they point to, may have something to do with the purported shortage that currently exists.
Add to that, the increased demand for truckers (as more and more individuals continue to purchase their goods online) and you have a perfect storm that amounts to a shortage of drivers that may (or may not) right itself as the market shifts.
Arguments for a Trucking Shortage
The ATA and like-minded individuals believe that high retirement rates among truck drivers and decreased interest in the trade alongside federal regulations limiting the number of hours truckers can spend on the road have all happened simultaneously with increased demand. However, as far as interstate and long route trucking go, there is an increasing amount of competition from both trains and planes. The ATA says that for every four truckers who retire, there have been three stepping on to replace them, but that number in recent years has fallen to one.
However, there may be another pressure adding to the shortage. Companies are now testing AI-driven trucks to make deliveries without truck drivers. Whether or not this is viable in the commercial freight and delivery market, however, remains unknown. But perhaps the fear of being replaced by automation is part of the reason why the shortage exists in the first place. Others have noted that some of the contracts new truckers are put on are not conducive to earning a living. They are forced to purchase their vehicles on a lease-to-own basis and then hired on as independent contractors—not employees—who would get benefits like health care and have other protections. These truckers are then forced to pay for their own insurance policies as opposed to having the company pay into a group policy. So some are saying that it’s less lucrative today to be a truck driver than ever before.
Consequences of Trucker Shortage
The ATA interprets the surge in trucking-related accidents to a lack of qualified drivers and they do have a point. One company, Werner Enterprises, was recently hit with a $40 million “nuclear” verdict after one of their trainees killed another driver on the road. This came after the same company was hit with another “nuclear” verdict of $90 million for allowing a trainee to complete a delivery with minimal supervision.
While something like that could definitely happen in the absence of a trucking shortage, a trucking shortage could explain why companies are willing to risk nuclear verdicts in order to make deliveries. Werner is a publicly-traded company that employs over 10,000 drivers. They also operate a Roadmasters Driving School who jurors decided were not being properly trained by the company and allowed to make interstate just-in-time deliveries on tight schedules without adequate supervision.
This may be only one of the high-profile trucking accidents that could be attributed to driver shortage. Today, the number of accidents and injuries attributed to tractor-trailer trucks continues to increase and statistically, the bigger the truck is, the more accidents we’re seeing on the road.
Talk to a Truck Accident Attorney Today
The Roger Ghai Law Offices serves the areas of Kennesaw and Acworth in Georgia. If you have been involved in a car accident or an accident with a tractor-trailer, our attorneys will fight tirelessly to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t just jump at the first offer the other driver’s insurance company gives you. Come to us and we’ll tell you what your case is really worth.