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Trucker Shortage Increasing Accident Risks in Alabama

Aug 1, 2012 - Truck Accidents by

A shortage of truckers could be increasing your risk for an accident on Alabama roads.

The Truckload Carriers Association estimates there are as many as 200,000 long-haul trucker job openings nationwide. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects more than 330,000 new trucking jobs by 2020. 1243146_asphalt_series__3.jpg

That’s a 20 percent increase on top of the 1.5 million commercial truck drivers already on the nation’s roads. The median annual wage for a trucker is just under $38,000 — the top 10 percent of drivers make more than $58,000 annually. Alabama trucking accident attorneys know there are a number of hurdles to reducing the risk of tractor-trailer accidents.

CNN Money reports hurdles in the certification process contribute to the shortage. Still, a licensed driver can take an 8-week course at a cost of about $6,000 and graduate with all the skills the law requires to drive a big rig up and down the nation’s highways. Drivers can spend 7 days a week on the road, often living in the cramped quarters of a truck cab, for weeks at a time.

“You have a gigantic culture shock when someone is suddenly living on the road in a space the size of a walk-in closet,” said Brett Aquila, creator of the TruckingTruth blog. “Then you have the pressure, the erratic sleep patterns, and the time away from home, family, and friends.”

Turnover is high — with companies constantly looking for new truck drivers. That may induce some to cut corners. As we reported recently on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, enforcers of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s drug and alcohol polices continue to be concerned about drivers job-hopping to avoid the consequences of a failed drug test.

The FMCSA for its part, has been too slow to adopt electronic means of ensuring drivers are complying with Hours of Service limits — instead of relying upon logbooks that are routinely faked so drivers can stay behind the wheel. Speed-limiting technologies are another area where the federal government has failed to show leadership — many other developed countries already require limiting a truck’s speed electronically.

In 2010, the agency did begin to publish the safety records of individual drivers — another inducement for companies to seek good drivers with clean safety records. However, the shortage also puts a strain on the existing workforce, which must pick up the slack with longer hauls and more hours on the road.

Earlier this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,675 motorists were killed and more than 80,000 were injured in accidents with large commercial trucks in 2010. A total of 276,000 trucks were involved in traffic accidents that year.

And, while the overall number of traffic accidents declined through the downturn, those statistics actually represent a 9-percent year-over-year increase in the number of tractor-trailer accidents. In the last decade, the number of registered trucks on the nation’s roads has increased substantially — from 7.8 million in 2001 to 10.8 million in 2010.

The transportation demands, and resultant workforce shortage, is not limited to the ground. Aviation safety experts are voicing concerns about a shortage of 500,000 pilots over the next 20 years as the worldwide fleet continues to expand. In both industries, finding and training good help is critical to both the economy and the safety of the traveling public.

As a result, the nation’s largest carriers are aggressively recruiting and investing in recruiting staff and signing bonuses.

Additional Resources

Tons of trucking jobs… that nobody wants, By Aaron Smith, CNN Money, July 24, 2012.

Alcohol & Drug Use Common Cause of Alabama Trucking Accidents, Cross & Smith, LLC, July 20, 2012.

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