Will Inexperienced Truck Drivers Be Taking the Wheel?

The average commercial truck driver is 55 years old, which means seasoned drivers are aging-out of the profession. And trucking companies are having a hard time recruiting new drivers – at the end of 2017, the United States was about 50,000 drivers short of what companies needed to transport their goods.

Texas is facing its own trucker shortage. Oil production in the Permian Basin shale formation has rebounded, following a price collapse in 2014. But there aren’t enough truckers to move that oil where it needs to go. According to Bloomberg news, many former drivers of oil trucks lost their jobs when the oil market crashed in 2014, and they’re reluctant to return to those positions.

Drivers of oil and gas trucks have traditionally earned much more than entry-level long-haul truckers who transport ordinary freight, because transporting oil requires some special skills and endorsements. Many oil fields are accessible only by dirt roads, so commercial drivers must drive with care, and they should have the ability to repair their rig if they break down in a remote area of Texas. Working with oil or gas is dangerous, and drivers must have a hazardous materials endorsement. For oil production to continue at its current rate, companies may have no choice but to aggressively recruit young – and inexperienced – drivers.

Tough Working Conditions and High Turnover

Driving a truck is a difficult job that involves long, irregular hours and being far from friends and family. Truckers are also prone to sleep disorders and certain health conditions, caused by their irregular schedules and diets. Many drivers leave the profession because of the stress and the physical demands, but if companies paid drivers more, turnover might be reduced.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says the average income for drivers of Class 8 (heavy freight) trucks is about the same today as it was in the 1980s. If adjusted for inflation, Spencer said, their income would be roughly $118,000 instead of $50,000 to $60,000. Instead of raising incomes to retain veteran drivers, many companies are hiring novice drivers and paying them lower wages.

ELDs and the Effect on Turnover

Electronic log devices (ELDs) have created some resentment in the trucking industry. A new federal law requires truckers to use these devices to track driving hours, so they’re not driving more than they should. But some truckers think these devices are an invasion of privacy, and many in the industry say the limits on drive time are unreasonable and hurt their income.

In October 2017, truckers around the country participated in protests of the new ELD mandate, and those who are opposed to the rule say it’s unfair to small companies and independent owner-operators (who may not have the budget to outfit trucks with ELDs).

Truckers who exceed driving hours, or who lack the experience necessary to safely do their jobs, pose a risk to other motorists on the road. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, The Evans Law Firm has represented many families who have suffered injuries in accidents with commercial trucks. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at (855) 414-1012 or fill out an online contact form to find out how we can help you.