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Accident Risks May Increase as Truck Driver Shortage Worsens

Truck Accident Lawyer DCBy: Allan M. Siegel

Although commercial trucks are an essential part of the American economy, the U.S. trucking industry has seen a considerable shortage in the number of truck drivers. According to a recently published report from The Wall Street Journal, the industry currently faces a shortage of roughly 35,000 - 40,000 drivers. While the drop in truck drivers has economic consequences - including steeper prices for consumers - it may also have a real and dangerous impact on public roadways.

For anyone that drives on our nation’s roads and highways, navigating around large commercial tractor-trailers already presents many dangers - as tractor-trailers are large, heavy, and difficult-to-maneuver machines. The truck driver shortage has the potential to increase these dangers and contribute to an increase in accidents for several reasons:

  • Inexperienced Drivers - A driver shortage and high turnover rate means that trucking companies need drivers. In order to man their fleet, some trucking companies may be forced to hire less-experienced drivers and/or hire drivers with little training - two factors that can increase the risk of accidents.
  • Younger Drivers - Under current federal trucking regulations, drivers must be at least 21 before they are allowed to drive commercial trucks across state lines. In response to the shortage, Congress is now considering legislation that would drop the age limit and allow drivers as young as 18 to drive tractor-trailers cross-country. Teen drivers, who have higher crash rates than other age groups, could present far greater dangers behind the wheel of a big rig.
  • Lower Qualifications - Although there are minimum government-enforced qualifications drivers must meet in order to have a commercial driver’s license, trucking companies typically set the bar higher by adopting hiring standards above the federal minimum. During employee shortages, however, companies commonly lower their hiring standards, which may result in the hiring of unqualified drivers.
  • Longer Hours - When trucking companies are not able to staff enough drivers to manage their obligations, they may attempt to make up for the shortage by having their drivers work longer hours. As we’ve seen in high profile accidents, truck driver fatigue can have devastating consequences.

Many of us share the road with tractor-trailers on a daily basis - and the trucking companies responsible for these trucks and drivers have the responsibility to ensure public safety, especially through their hiring practices. Should trucking companies sacrifice safety in an attempt to protect their bottom line during a prolonged truck driver shortage, they can be held accountable for any accidents and damages their drivers cause.

If you or a loved one has been harmed in a commercial tractor-trailer accident in the DC metro area, a Washington, DC truck accident attorney at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is available to review your case and discuss your legal rights. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.