By 2027, the amount of freight moved by trucks in the United States is going to increase by 27 percent, according to Trucks.com. This means enhanced demand for truck drivers to move all of this freight. While the growth of an industry should be good news, the problem is there is already a serious shortage of truck drivers. To keep up with demand, more than 96,000 people would need to decide to become truck drivers each year over the next 10 years. Since this seems unlikely, the shortage of qualified truck drivers is being called an "unparalleled staffing crisis."
This is not the only crisis facing trucking companies. Their workforce is getting older. Young people are not applying for truck driving jobs, so the average age of truckers keeps going upwards.
Not only are older truckers staying on the job, but trucking companies are actually hiring seniors who haven't been in the trucking industry for their whole careers. Older seniors apply regularly for trucking jobs, and many are being hired by companies which might overlook them if there was a younger candidate available.
Hiring senior truck drivers at first glance, seems like the right thing to do. After all federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination against seniors who are older and looking for positions. However, the problem is that there is evidence to suggest seniors are not as good as their younger counterparts at driving a truck safely. Seniors may lack the stamina, their reflexes may be slowed due to the effects of age, and their cognitive function may be starting to decline.
The evidence showing possible problems with lots of senior truck drivers does not just come from abstract knowledge about how age affects the body and mind. According to CBS, more than 6,636 accidents across 12 states involved an elderly driver over the period from 2013 to 2015. During this same time period, there was a 19 percent rise in accidents involving commercial trucks or buses which were driven by truckers in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Safety advocates are arguing that the federal government needs to step in and impose some type of regulation or standard for senior truckers. If the government does not step in, trucking companies facing staffing shortages are going to hire seniors and may not put rigorous and ongoing monitoring protocols into place to make certain that the seniors they hire are actually still able to drive trucks safely. This could increase overall truck accident risks if these older senior truckers experience physical or mental declines that make them unable to safely drive trucks.
Every motorist is at risk due to the trucker shortage and the potential implications this shortage has for hiring. It is time to take steps now to try to protect road safety before people start getting hurt or killed in greater numbers of truck crashes.