If you listen to a radio station are likely to hear one or more trucking companies advertising employment opportunities for truck drivers. This is not a new phenomenon but one that has been going on for the last several years. The truth of the matter is that trucking companies are having difficulty finding qualified and safe drivers.
Recent forecasts confirm the growth of expected truck driver jobs and also the problems in the industry and finding people who are interested in becoming long-haul truckers. The problem is particularly acute in urban areas and younger drivers show no interest in the profession.
Where this finds American trucking companies is competing for truck drivers by advertising on the Internet as well as radio and television. Sign-up bonuses and other incentives are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
This leaves motor carriers with a shallow pool of drivers and is endangering America. That is a bold statement to make but backed up by the fact that motor carriers are forced to accept marginal truck drivers in order to fill jobs. While pay has increased, the combination of lower pay and time away from home and family have made the truck driving profession undesirable for many.
In our practice representing people injured in 18-wheeler accidents, the number of poorly qualified drivers involved in accidents has increased at a staggering level. Drivers who would not have been accepted 10 years ago are now paid a sign-up bonus to get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler.
There’s little doubt that there’s a direct correlation between the safety record of a truck driver and the likelihood of a serious accident occurring. Drivers who are unqualified or inexperienced but still licensed to drive now make up a large percentage of new drivers.
There are several solutions to the problem of lack of qualified drivers. The most obvious is for trucking companies to increase the pay scale of the drivers who are highly qualified. This approach tends to squeeze profit margins and is only adopted as a last resort by many motor carriers.
If the trucking companies will not address the issue directly, the responsibility to protect American consumers falls upon the Department of Transportation. It is our opinion that the regulations currently in effect are inadequate regarding both driver qualification and hours of service. Of course, business interests are balanced against the need to protect the public. Nevertheless, there is no question that many truck drivers behind the wheel today are simply not ready for the responsibility of an 80,000-pound vehicle.