WILLIAMSPORT, PA, Nov. 09, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The trucking industry estimates that there are approximately 63,000 open truck driver jobs in the U.S., a number that could double in the years to come. While economists ponder the impact of this labor shortage on the economy, Cliff Rieders says that we should be considering the effect on road safety.

Rieders is an attorney and partner at the Williamsport, PA, law firm Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann, which has handled several cases involving large truck accidents.

“One of the biggest concerns regarding the trucking labor shortage is the lowering of standards by employers,” Rieders said. “Driving a truck used to be a more reliable job that offered a higher standard of pay, benefits and security. Over the past few decades, the job has become more demanding and the pay has declined.”

Since the 1970s, truck driver pay has dropped by anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, depending on the region of the driver, according to an analysis by Business Insider. Experts suggest that deregulation coupled with the ensuing de-unionization of the industry has curbed driver pay and strained the trucking workforce.

Rieders said that the trucking industry is not doing enough to entice workers to get behind the wheel and that some solutions offered by trucking companies could be hazardous for all motorists.

“Some in the trucking industry are pushing to lower the minimum age requirements for truck drivers,” Rieders said. “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which putting less experienced drivers behind the wheel is a good thing for road safety.”

Federal requirements state that to drive across state lines, truckers must be at least 21 years old. The American Trucking Associations, a national trade association for the trucking industry, has encouraged a lowering of the age limit for years.

Many lawmakers are taking heed of the industry’s proposals. In March 2018, House members introduced a bill to lower the age requirement to 18, while the White House appears to be moving forward with a pilot program that would allow younger drivers with military and national guard experience to drive commercial trucks.

Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade organization representing truck drivers, claims that lowering the standard will threaten the safety of motorists.

The Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention argues that younger drivers are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and more likely than adults to make critical decision errors that lead to serious crashes.

Another measure the trucking industry has taken over recent years has also impacted both road safety and the appeal of the job, said Rieders.

“Truckers are increasingly classified as contractors, not employees,” Rieders said. “This shift was intended to save trucking companies money. In theory, this would allow companies to hire more workers, but it has clearly become a huge part of the problem.”

Truckers who work as contractors carry more costs than their employed counterparts. Many truckers are paid by the mile and end up earning less than the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25, once costs such as truck leases, fuel and insurance are factored in.

“The lack of adequate pay naturally encourages workers to exceed federal hours-of-service limits and push themselves to points of chronic fatigue and burnout,” Rieders said.

Rieders said that increasing pay and improving working conditions for truckers is one of the few available options that can address the labor shortage while also keeping roads as safe as possible.

“It’s not the diagnosis that the trucking industry wants to hear,” Rieders said. “But unless they make the job more appealing to the labor market, the shortage will continue to grow.”

About Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann:
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann is a full-service law firm based in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. They offer legal representation in areas that include medical malpractice and personal injury. Learn more about the firm by visiting their website - http://www.riederstravis.com/.


Cliff Rieders
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann