When you’re driving down I-35 amidst a sea of 18-wheelers, it sure doesn’t seem like there is a truck driver shortage. However, the truck driver shortage continues to loom over the trucking industry. Shortfalls are estimated to reach 175,000 drivers by 2025. Truck drivers are in such high demand because consumers are ordering more online goods than ever. According to The American Trucking Association, more than 70 percent of all freight moved across the country goes on trucks. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there aren’t enough drivers willing to accept the grueling working conditions, poor dietary options, and weeks away from home.
The average age of a commercial truck driver in the United States is 55 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these drivers will retire within the next 20 years, which will hit the trucking industry hard unless younger workers are brought in to replace them. Another issue is that while women make up 47% of the nation’s workforce, they only account for 6% of commercial truck drivers.
For many, the trucker lifestyle isn’t ideal and steers people away from even considering a career as a truck driver. Most drivers, when new to the industry, are assigned to routes that keep them on the road for extended periods of time, returning home only a few times a month. Adapting to living in a truck, eating fast food, and showering at rest areas can be difficult and definitely contributes to the truck driver shortage. No one can binge on fast food and gas station snacks without some health consequences. Not to mention, combine that kind of eating with the sedentary lifestyle of a truck driver and the pounds will keep packing on. This high-calorie, high-sugar diet can lead to health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.
With the intense pressure placed on drivers to get their delivery to its destination as quickly as possible, they often skip breaks. This affects the driver physically and mentally as well. Mental fogginess, poor judgment, and forgetfulness are all side effects that can make drivers more prone to accidents. Brad says, “It’s true that federal law limits how many hours a driver can operate their vehicle, but some trucking companies encourage drivers to manipulate the rules in order to complete orders.” The result of this is truckers struggling to stay alert and awake while driving long hours. Because they are desperate to meet delivery schedules, companies may overlook drivers with prior safety violations or hire inexperienced drivers.
Another dangerous consequence of the truck driver shortage is that trucking companies may fill their trucks with too much cargo. Brad says, “Overloaded trucks are far more difficult to maneuver and require greater stopping distances. Overweight trucks are also more prone to tire blowouts and equipment failure. This means danger to motorists sharing the road with these trucks.”
In hopes of attracting more applicants and combatting the truck driver shortage, companies like Walmart and Amazon are increasing driver pay to nearly $100,000 a year and offering signing bonuses. If carriers start thinking more strategically about untapped workforce pools and continue to offer comprehensive benefits packages with competitive pay, there may be a chance for fixing the problem. While big rigs help to keep our economy strong, they have a foreboding presence on our highways due to their weight and size. As truck accidents continue to claim the lives of thousands of people each year, defensive driving becomes more important. Brad says, “There is no way to eliminate the possibility of a crash. Motorists can greatly reduce the risk of being involved in a serious accident by taking a few extra precautions.”
How Motorists Can Prevent a Truck Accident
Defensive driving is a useful skill for any driver, but there are a few techniques that you should keep in mind specifically when you’re in the proximity of a large truck. Here are eight tips to prevent a truck accident:
- Allow extra space when following. A larger vehicle limits your visibility of what’s ahead, including slowed or stopped traffic, construction, or other hazardous travel conditions. By leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the truck in front of you, you have more opportunity to react if you need to make a sudden stop or swerve.
- Leave space when passing in front of a truck. A truck is much heavier than a passenger car, which means it requires more distance to stop. Don’t ever cut in front of a large truck. If you can’t pass with plenty of room, then stay in your lane.
- Steer clear of a truck’s blind spot. If you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the mirror, the truck driver can’t see you. It’s safer to pass a truck on the driver’s side. They have a much wider blind spot on the passenger side.
- Be mindful of where you pull over. If you need to pull off the highway in between exits, try to find a wide shoulder. Many accidents happen because a car is pulled over and swiped by a passing truck that swerves a little onto the shoulder.
- Use caution if a truck is turning. A truck needs more clearance to turn than a car. If you need to judge a truck’s speed as it approaches an intersection or how much space it will need to clear a turn, always allow extra room. Assume that the truck is moving faster than you think it is.
- Pass quickly. Only pass a truck when you can see that there is ample space ahead to do so swiftly. You don’t want to linger in the lane beside a truck for any longer than necessary. Tire blowouts and rollovers happen frequently.
- Use turn signals. This is important in any driving situation, but especially when it comes to driving near large trucks. Use turn signals clearly so that a truck driver can see what you intend to do and can adjust their own driving accordingly. Never change lanes or turn without using your signals.
- Avoid distracted and drowsy driving. Plan your trip before you leave so that you have good music, podcasts, or whatever you like for entertainment already queued up. Don’t mess with your phone, or even the car radio, while driving. If you are feeling tired or need to mess with your GPS, get to a rest area or find a safe place to pull over.
Parker Law Firm has spent over 35 years fighting for clients all over Texas who have been involved in serious truck accidents on our highways. If you or a loved one are injured as a result of a truck driver’s negligence, give our office a call or fill out our contact form for a free case evaluation.