Shortage of Truck Drivers Spells Danger on the Roadways

tractor trailer driving down highway

The turnover rate for truck drivers went up in the first part of 2011, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The rate for the first quarter of 2011 was 75 percent, nearly double the rate for the same quarter of last year. Industry experts do not anticipate a recovery anytime soon, with a still-flailing economy and fewer new drivers entering the workforce than are retiring.

The shortage of drivers may motivate truckers to “job hop” and go the carrier that will pay the most. Recent surveys by Transport Capital Partners have found that 92 percent of fleets are preparing for driver wage increases of up to 5 percent. While this tactic could benefit individual truck drivers, it doesn’t remedy the immediate need for more drivers in the industry.

Financial Incentive for Driver Training

Many blame the stagnant starting wages for truck drivers that haven’t changed much in the last decade, but those wishing to become truck drivers may also be dissuaded by the rigorous training required.

Participants of the new truck-driving course at North Idaho College are in class 10 hours a day, 5 days a week for a month. The cost of such programs may also be too high, especially with the average starting salary of a truck driver at about $38,000.

The ongoing shortage of drivers has one fleet offering a tuition incentive program through the Detroit-based U.S. Truck Driver Training School Inc. Con-way Truckload will pay one third of the tuition for drivers who agree to sign on with the trucking company. Con-way plans to hire about 500 workers in the next year. “We’re hoping to put people into the transportation industry that are out of work right now, that may have considered a career in transportation but could not afford it,” said Joseph LaBarge, president and owner of the U.S. Truck Driver Training School.

Consequences of Overworked Drivers

With fewer drivers, trucking companies will find it hard to meet deadlines. Often this filters down in the form of pressure on truck drivers to transport product even faster. Already some truck drivers feel such pressure from the companies that hire them that they resort to unsafe or illegal measures, such as driving for longer than allowed by hours-of-service laws and using illegal drugs to stay awake for longer driving times. Fatigued drivers are a hazard, and anyone on the roadways could end up paying the price.

If you or someone you know has been injured or if you have lost a loved one in a serious accident involving a truck, contact us today. One of our expert attorneys will listen to your story and offer a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options. You can view our case results by clicking here.


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