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Trucker shortage increases risks for all drivers and passengers

Commercial trucks are everywhere. On local streets and highways here in Lancaster and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They play a crucial role in the local, state and national economies, helping all types of businesses move products and supplies.

And while it still may look to the naked eye like these 18-wheelers are everywhere, the country is grappling with a growing number of unfilled truck driver job openings. Estimates range from 63,000 to as many as 100,000 unfilled job postings across the country, and large pay hikes and generous bonuses don’t seem to do the trick. A quick internet search reveals a number of listings here in the Lancaster area alone.

Does less drivers mean more tired drivers?

Currently, federal regulations limit truck drivers to no more than 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour period after being off duty for 10 hours. A driver cannot also work more than 70 hours in a consecutive eight-day period. Drivers also must keep electronic logs of their hours of service.

The federal government put these regulations in place to ensure drivers get the rest they need and make the roads safer for everyone. Driving while fatigued can have disastrous consequences for you, your passengers and occupants of any other vehicles nearby. It drastically slows down reaction times, making you slower to respond to any imminent dangers.

But with so many job openings, companies across the country are experiencing severe delays with deliveries. Could this mean that employers will put more pressure on their drivers to push themselves beyond their physical capabilities and the law to keep up with delivery schedules? A tired truck driver is not a safe truck driver; he or she is now the operator of an 18-wheel missile that could cause severe injuries and fatalities to anyone in its path.

More inexperienced drivers another hazard

Due to this shortage, many trucking companies are hiring inexperienced drivers and those with checkered pasts. Drivers must pass strict tests to get their licenses, but once behind the wheel, some turn to drugs and alcohol.

This toxic combination of inexperience and dangerous substances could also cause many accidents that never need to happen.

Will workers’ comp claims go up as well?

Of course, truck drivers are also all too aware of the dangers of their industry, which likely plays a role in the massive amount of job openings. According to the U.S. Labor Department, 1,000 truck drivers died behind the wheel in 2016.

In addition to the risk of accidents, drivers spending more time behind the wheel face a host of other health risks, including obesity and heart disease. It could mean that drivers and their families will be filing many more workers’ compensation claims in the months and years to come as companies struggle to find drivers.

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