There is an inverse relationship between a truck driver shortage and the number of truck accidents. Currently, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there is a national shortage of around 60,000 truck drivers. This shortage is also experienced here in Tennessee. Although it’s hard to prove directly that a shortage of drivers causes more accidents, it is also hard not to understand why there might be a concern.
Why truck driver shortages can be an accident risk
If there aren’t enough truck drivers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that less freight or goods are carried. It usually means that the existing number of truck drivers is expected to work for longer hours, or drive faster. Either of these two scenarios is a recipe for higher rates of burn out, extra fatigue or crashes due to attempting to deliver a load faster than ever.
Drivers are regulated by state and federal authorities so that they do not drive for so long that their ability to concentrate is compromised by fatigue. Some trucking companies that are having difficulties recruiting truck drivers may be tempted to cut corners on these regulations.
Another reason for an increase in truck accidents that could arise from a shortage of drivers is that companies may decide to slacken off on screening drivers for employment or reducing the training time so that a new driver can be put to use faster to fill an employment gap.
Failing to adequately screen applicants for driver positions could mean that drivers with previous poor records could be recruited, e.g. those with convictions for drunk driving and other violations.
Older drivers who have been looking forward to retirement may be persuaded to stay on working for a company and while this may be no bad thing, it could still increase the risk of serious accidents as older drivers do not typically have the speed of coordination as much as younger drivers and tend to be more likely to experience fatigue.
Tennessee truck accident statistics
The number of truck accident fatalities has definitely increased this year (2019). There have been so far this year 139 fatalities involved in crashes with large trucks or buses. This is 20% higher than any year over the last 5 years. Statistics provided by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security show that there were 114, 114, 111 and119 fatalities in the years immediately preceding this year. Of course, it is hard to link the rise in fatalities directly to driver shortage, but this cannot be ruled out as a factor, either.
Reasons for the shortage
There is not one single reason identified why there is a national truck driver shortage. Trucking companies say that the number of retiring drivers has not been balanced by younger drivers willing to take on what some think is a hard job with little reward except for increasingly attractive rates of pay. There has been some speculation that younger people are put off training for a career which may not last too long if autonomous trucks become a reality. In addition, the fact that employment prospects have picked up over the last year means that trucking companies are finding recruitment competitive as there are other opportunities other than long haul driving.
A shortage of truck drivers is no reason for relaxing standards
Whatever the pressure on trucking companies, this is not an excuse for relaxing training or recruitment standards. The consequences of having a workforce that is tired, too old or dangerous are too serious to justify an attempt to retain profit margins. If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a truck accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim, you would not expect the trucking company or one of its drivers use a truck driver shortage as an excuse for negligent driving.
The ATA reports that it expects the shortage of truck drivers to increase over the next decade with an estimate of 100,000 drivers short by 2024, five years from now and 160,000 five years later. That means that there is an increased risk of serious truck injuries on Tennessee roads as shortages begin to bite further. Take extra care on our highways and if injured in a truck accident don’t hesitate to contact truck accident attorney, Keith Williams, who has an enviable reputation for success in pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of his clients. Contact the office of the Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville at (615) 313-3999.