America's Truck Driver Shortage – The Dangers and Solutions

The life of a big truck driver isn’t easy. Long hours compounded by long roads equates to a merciless drive with little respite. Because of these conditions, an American truck driver shortage is being experienced nationwide. Whether it’s because the demand for freight is rising, the unemployment rate remains low, or the working conditions are no longer satisfactory for the amount drivers are paid, the American Trucking Associations predicts that America will be short over 174,000 drivers by 2026.1

This number is a concern for motorists because it means that big truck companies distribute the extra workload between current truck drivers, which can make the highways a more dangerous place.

Truck Driver Shortage - Isaacs and Isaacs

What does this mean for the other vehicles who share the road? Some of the most common causes of truck driving accidents are driver error (a category that includes distracted driving), sleep deprivation and reckless driving. Accidents are also commonly caused by improper cargo loading and poor vehicle maintenance, errors that occur when big truck companies attempt to cut time and costs.

Shortage of Truck Drivers in the USA: The Safety Consequences

Is there a connection between less truck drivers and more road accidents? According to the Washington Post, America saw a shortage of over 51,000 drivers at the end of 2017.2 Whatever the reasons for truck driver shortage issues — fewer qualified candidates, unsatisfactory working conditions and beyond — the state of the big truck industry is in trouble. Fewer drivers means that this workload is distributed through a network of an already overworked employees, which leads to issues such as improper vehicle maintenance and exhausted truck drivers.

Many statistics connect drowsy and distracted driving to car accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2016, 27% of fatal work zone crashes involved at least one large truck. That’s compared to only 11% of all fatal crashes.3 Work zones are especially hazardous to those who have spent too many hours on the road. There are more abrupt stops, sharp turns and unexpected pedestrians.

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Big Truck Company Incentives: A Dangerous Problem for Drivers

With fewer drivers, big truck companies are touting more and more extravagant bonuses and incentives for drivers who can go the extra mile. Driver Incentive Programs are frequently based upon whether a driver can deliver a shipment within the assigned time period. However, if a driver needs to sleep at 2AM, or is caught up in some bad weather, he or she is penalized for missing the allotted time period by losing the driver bonus. This dangerous incentivization can encourage sleep-deprived and reckless driving just so big truck companies can compensate for the lack of drivers.

Truck Driver Shortage Solutions

There have been a number of recommendations to end the shortage of truck drivers in the US including:

  • Better Pay and Benefits for Truck Drivers – A stronger job package attracts strong workers. This is also the key argument made by those asserting that we’re dealing with a truck driver shortage myth aimed at increasing revenue for big truck companies by holding down wages that should steadily rise with demand.
  • Will Self Driving Trucks Taking Over? – Business Insider notes that “Tech leaders and financiers alike are confident that self-driving trucks will become the norm as early as the next decade…” If that becomes the reality, it will be a major talking point among truck drivers, and of course opens up an entirely new world of regulations and litigation.
  • Passage of the DRIVE-Safe Act – If the Bill is passed, it would bring a change in Federal law allowing truck drivers as young as 18-years-old to obtain a commercial drivers license and travel across state lines.

What You Can Do to Drive Safe Near a Big Truck

While driving, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only car on the road. It’s common sense to eliminate distracted driving habits and properly maintain your car, but you can’t always predict the behavior of other vehicles.

When driving near a big truck, there are a few factors to keep in mind that will make your commute as safe as possible:

  • Blind Spots or “No Zones”– Blind spots are zones in which the truck driver cannot see the area in a mirror. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot. For 18-wheelers, a blind spot can span the length of an entire vehicle. That’s why drivers should never cut a truck driver off. If you’re in a blind spot, you’re virtually invisible!
  • Wide Turn Radius– Trucks have a wide turn radius and have a higher likelihood of a blind spot. Some trucks have a turn radius of up to 55 feet, so remember to give them lots of room and never follow them too closely.
  • Longer Stopping Times– A truck can take up to the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop. As a driver, you should always avoid braking abruptly. If you see a big truck behind your car, make sure to be extra conscientious of how suddenly you stop your car.
  • Reduced Maneuverability– Big trucks have slower reaction times, especially during harsh weather conditions.
  • Maintain a Safe and Consistent Speed– While drivers may be tempted to try and get away from a big truck as fast as possible, it’s necessary to maintain safe, consistent speeds in order to keep the roadways safe.

While driving near a big truck, always remember to stay vigilant and take proper precautions to pass safely. Understanding the limitations of big trucks is the first step commuters can take towards keeping to road a safer place to drive.

Truck Accident Prevention Involves All of Us

At Isaacs and Isaacs we deal with a large number of preventable truck accidents. Our goal is to see this number go down each year through driver education, common sense training, and when necessary, legal action. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or commercial vehicle, reach out for a free evaluation of your important claim.

Isaacs & Isaacs Louisville Office
1601 Business Center Ct
Louisville, KY 40299
502-458-1000