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Truck driver shortage impacts highway safety

August 14, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

The lawyers in my firm have been helping truck accident injury victims for over 50 years. In that time, we’ve witnessed a connection that most people don’t see: the interplay between hiring conditions in the trucking industry and safety on our highways. And there is little doubt about the impact that a serious truck driver shortage is likely to have on highway safety.

As reported recently at CNN Money:

There are as many as 200,000 job openings nationwide for long haul truckers, according to David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association.

And as noted by my good friend, Tennessee truck accident attorney Morgan Adams, the shortage may reach half-a-million drivers by 2013:

Right after I blogged on the Wall Street Journal article here, I received a copy of the industry trade magazine Transportation Topics (Transportation Topics, 2012 Top 100 For Hire Carriers, p A3) that reported industry economist Noel Perry, at FTR Associates, stated that the trucking industry was going to be short 500,000 drivers in 2013! Today’s shortage of about 200,000 drivers will increase to around 800,000 drivers in 2014, [Perry] estimated. That is less than previous forecasts “but still a big deal,” he said.

Morgan and I are both past-presidents of the AAJ Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group.  During both of our terms, and in countless real-life examples from our own cases, including cases we have worked on together, we’ve seen how trucking company will cut safety corners and hire unfit drivers because they are under pressure to get drivers into trucks.  And this has consequences – including “grasshopper” truckers who jump from state to state after they’ve caused too many accidents or killed or injured too many people in one state and have o move on.

While the hiring shortage stands as good economic news for drivers looking for work, the shortage poses very serious implications for our safety on our roads and highways.

Attorney Brett Emison, identifies at least two potential truck-highway safety issues:

If with an initial training course, the highways may be flooded with rookie truck drivers without the experience to know the ins and outs of truck driving safety. There is a learning curve to every skill set and every profession. There may soon be a quarter-million semi truck drivers at the very beginning of that curve.


…otherwise safe and professional tractor trailer drivers can be pushed by their trucking companies to log more hours over longer and longer stretches of highway. The trucking system is stacked against truck drivers because the corporations make millions off of the driver’s hard work and shifts all of the burdens and risks onto the driver.

And safety issues surrounding trucking aren’t solely limited to no-truckers. As Truckie-D notes at his blog:

While we’re on the subject of health, let’s talk about safety. In terms of numbers of workers killed and injured, trucking is one of the most (if not the most) dangerous jobs in the country.

So, will 2012 will be a year in which we see some major changes regarding rules related to trucking in the United States?

Only time will tell. One thing seems certainly clear, the safety of our highways depends in part on the driver shortage taking place in the trucking industry in the U.S.

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