Recent reports from the American Trucking Associations, Inc. (ATA) and commercial insurance companies like CRC Group suggest certain widespread issues in the trucking industry may be contributing to an increase in the frequency and severity of truck accidents.
In a single recent year, the trucking industry transported 80 percent of America’s cargo and generated $791.7 billion in revenue. But unfortunately, large commercial trucks were also involved in roughly 11 percent of fatal crash deaths despite only accounting for about 3 percent of all registered vehicles.
Even with new technologies and stricter regulations, the ATA reported that commercial trucks were involved in nearly 60 percent more accidents per mile in one recent year than in less than a decade prior. The following year, the number of people killed in large truck crashes increased by a staggering 31 percent over the lowest annual rate.
So, why is the national rate of severe truck accidents increasing despite the industry’s best efforts? Below, we’ll explore three key, interrelated factors that experts believe may be driving these trends.
A Historic Shortage of Commercial Drivers
The ATA estimated in 2021 that the trucking industry experienced a historic shortage of qualified drivers, with approximately 80,000 unfilled positions. If current trends continue, industry experts expect the shortage to reach or even surpass 160,000 by 2030. The ATA also estimates that the industry will need to recruit almost one million new drivers over the next decade to continue at its current pace.
There are multiple reasons for this shortage, but some of the most commonly cited contributing factors include:
- A general lack of female drivers, who currently make up just 7 percent of the industry’s workforce
- The inability of current and prospective drivers to meet trucking company hiring standards or pass drug tests or background checks
- Federal minimum age requirements that prohibit commercial drivers under the age of 21 from crossing state lines
- Decreased driver retention and training due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Negative lifestyle issues associated with the job, including time spent away from home
- Infrastructural problems on our nation’s roads, including general congestion and a widespread lack of truck parking spaces
Aging Fleets of Trucks and Truck Drivers
Another significant contributing factor in the severity of trucking accidents is the high average age of the current commercial trucking workforce. The average U.S. truck driver is about 50 years or older. These older drivers are a wealth of institutional and practical knowledge, but unfortunately, many of them are also beginning to retire.
As the average age of truck drivers continues to increase, the retirement rate will rise along with it, and trucking companies will continue struggling to hire new drivers to replace them. Frighteningly, there are reports of some companies loosening their hiring criteria, sometimes dropping their requirements for commercial driving experience to as little as one year. While this will undoubtedly attract new talent, it also substantially increases the percentage of inexperienced and potentially dangerous truck drivers on the road.
Violations of Important Safety Regulations
The retirement of older drivers and the general driver shortage in the trucking industry may both contribute to a related safety issue. As trucking companies struggle to do more with less, some drivers feel pressured to violate regulations to keep up with demand.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict hours of service (HOS) regulations that limit the amount of time drivers can spend on the road. But according to recent surveys, many drivers admit to violating these regulations so they can get their jobs done. As a result, extreme fatigue is common among truck drivers and may very well be a contributing factor in the recent surge of truck accidents.
Contact a Virginia Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been injured in a Virginia truck accident, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can address your concerns, explain your legal options, and seek the compensation you deserve. Contact the Virginia truck accident lawyers at Breit Law PC for a free consultation.