truck driver shortage

How Driver Shortages Affect Commercial Trucking Safety

In the United States, the commercial trucking industry is a crucial part of the economy. They’re responsible for transporting goods and raw materials across the country, often working on tight deadlines and handling time-sensitive loads. The industry has, in recent years, had to face a growing problem: a driver shortage. Not only does this impact the industry’s bottom line, but it also has the power to ramp up accident rates and have a negative impact on overall road safety.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, it’s time to talk to the team at Gardner Law Firm. Call us at 228-436-6555 to set up a consultation now.

Overworked Drivers Struggling with Fatigue

One of the main reasons the truck driver shortage is so dangerous is that it puts an enormous strain on commercial drivers. Drivers struggling to meet an ever-increasing workload often have to put in longer hours, drive more miles, and take fewer breaks. This inevitably leads to fatigue and burnout. Of course, fatigued drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents.

Research indicates that fatigue is a major risk factor for accidents, both among drivers in general and among truck drivers. Fatigue makes a driver more likely to make critical errors, take unnecessary risks behind the wheel, have slower reaction times when there’s an obstacle, and have a limited attention span. All of these side effects are extremely dangerous on the road.

The longer a driver is behind the wheel, the more likely they are to struggle with fatigue. Driving is a mentally and physically exhausting task that requires contact attention and the ability to stay focused.

In an effort to combat driver fatigue, the FMCSA has implemented rules regarding drivers’ hours. These regulations limit how long a driver can go without a break, how many hours they can drive in a row, and how many hours they can drive in a seven- or eight-day period. Despite these regulations, some driving companies do ignore them in an effort to meet deadlines.

Lower Quality of Drivers

When there’s a truck driver shortage, companies have to lower their expectations and their hiring standards. If they don’t, they risk losing out on big jobs or failing to fulfill their contracts. As a result, they put less experienced drivers or drivers with limited qualifications on the road.

When these drivers come up against unexpected challenges, such as heavy traffic or poor weather, they are less likely to react appropriately and take effective safety measures. Additionally, more inexperienced drivers may simply be less adept at handling a tractor-trailer, making them more likely to make avoidable mistakes.

When truck companies are still unable to get their routes filled, they may turn to outside contractors and owner-operators. While many contractors and owner-operators are excellent drivers, they may not have to meet the same standards as company-employed drivers. This means that they might take unnecessary risks or ignore regulations in order to boost their earnings.

Reduced Safety Standards

Trucks are incredibly complex machines that are put under enormous stress every single day. Inspecting and maintaining vehicles takes time, and when a company is already understaffed, that’s the last thing they have. Drivers may overlook malfunctioning components, rush inspections, or skip inspections completely. Although there are high standards for vehicle maintenance and inspections, that doesn’t mean that all drivers and companies adhere to those standards.

A big issue is that it’s largely up to companies to enforce these standards. When they are running on a skeleton crew without any wiggle room, who is going to make sure that trucks are properly inspected? When there are more poorly maintained trucks on the road, it’s only a matter of time before they break down, has a tire blowout, or otherwise cause a completely avoidable crash.

Get the Help You Need with Gardner Law Firm

A truck accident can cause serious injuries, lost wages, and financial devastation. Make sure you have a strong attorney fighting for your compensation. When you’re ready to start your claim, we’re here to help. Call Gardner Law Firm at 228-436-6555 or fill out our online contact form.