Over the next 10 years, more than 96,000 people need to decide to become truck drivers and become qualified to do so. If they don't, the trucking industry is not going to be able to keep pace with consumer demand, according to Trucks.com.
The trucking industry is facing an "unparalleled" staffing crisis, and it is only getting worse. The shortage of truck drivers is going to have profound consequences on many aspects of life, especially as truckers move the bulk of goods and materials throughout the United States. The storage is already impacting road safety in adverse ways.
Lots of different issues are caused by a shortage of qualified truck drivers. One problem is that trucking companies sometimes encourage drivers to take on more work than is safe. Truckers end up driving for very long periods, sometimes even violating hours of service rules under pressure from employers. This results in a significantly enhanced risk of drowsy driving crashes.
Another problem is that trucking companies are having to hire candidates who may not necessarily be in the very best possible position to be great at driving large commercial trucks. CBS News, for example, reported recently that an increasing number of senior citizens have applied to be truck drivers. This is adding more older people to an industry which already has a lot of them. Drivers aged 65 and up already make up about 10 percent of all commercial truck operators in the United States.
While hiring or retaining senior truck drivers is not necessarily a bad thing, it has long been established among safety experts that older drivers can start to become dangerous on the roads. This means that careful screening would need to be done to make certain an older driver was up to the task of safely driving a big rig.
Unfortunately, senior drivers can decline quickly or have unexpected medical events, even when precautions are taken before an older person is given a commercial license and hired to drive a truck. The consequences can be tragic. For example, one 76-year-old truck driver ended up causing a collision which killed 10 people, including two parents and two brothers from one family who were on their way to see a family member get named as a church elder. The older truck driver's vehicle had rolled on top of three cars and caused the fatal wreck.
Trucking companies cannot afford to force older drivers into retirement, nor can they avoid hiring older workers. There are no upper age limits on truck drivers; anti-discrimination laws prohibit companies from refusing to hire qualified seniors; and trucking companies need the help. If an ever-increasing number of truckers are going to be older though, this could increase overall truck accident risks due to the fact seniors are always going to be more prone to collisions than younger motorists.