Yes. You read the headline correctly. The trucking industry is desperate for new truckers. The pandemic forced many truckers to leave the industry due to health concerns and the lack of demand for as many products as before the pandemic. The possibility that autonomous trucks may take over many truck routes is also scaring away new truck drivers. In addition, trucking is a dangerous profession that causes numerous injuries and fatalities.
According to a report in Jalopnik, a Texas company is offering the $14,000 a week salary for drivers who have experience. The Texas company, Sisu Energy, handles mainly fuel deliveries. Jim Grundy, Sisu Energy’s CEO and owner stated that one of the reasons the East Coast in the US is having a fuel crunch is because there simply aren’t enough trucks to deliver the fuel.
He continued by stating that the pandemic forced fuel transport rates down because there wasn’t a strong demand to haul fuel, because many people were staying home. Consumers weren’t driving. Now that demand is increasing, there’s a tremendous shortage of truckers who are qualified to haul gasoline.
Grundy says that more than just gasoline will be affected. There will now be increased demand for wood for construction and retail products such as clothing and food. Grundy expects that the shortage of experienced truckers will continue way beyond the summer of 2021. He anticipates the shortage of truck drivers could last for several years.
To qualify for the $14,000 a week salary, truck drivers must be at least 25 years old and have at least two years of truck driving experience. The company’s insurance won’t cover younger and less experienced drivers. Chris Spear, the President and CEO of the American Trucking Association (ATA), and more than 100 other trucking organizations are working to encourage insurers and trucking companies to hire younger drivers too due to the increased demand.
Spear says that over the next 5-10 years, the trucking industry will need to hire 1.1 million people to meet the demand for products. The ATA estimates that there was a 61,000 shortfall of truck drivers at the end of 2019. The pandemic only made that shortfall worse. More and more, trucks are relied upon to move freight. Spears estimates truckers will need to move more than 2.4 billion tons of freight than they currently do.
“Breakdowns in our surface transportation infrastructure, as well as a severe and widening truck driver and diesel technician shortage, threaten the industry’s ability to keep goods moving safely and on time,” Spear told the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee. Traffic congestion on the federal highway system already costs the trucking industry more than a billion hours of lost productivity – which is the equivalent of “more than 425,000 drivers sitting idle for an entire year — adding $75 billion to the cost of freight transportation.”
Spear’s organization and the other 100 plus organizations are working, on a bipartisan basis, to reduce the minimum age limit for driving trucks in interstate commerce from 21-years-of-age to 18-years-of-age. The push comes in the form of Congressional legislation called the DRIVE Safe Act.
Spear argues that if 18-years are fit to serve our country and protect our freedom abroad, then he’s sure they can be trained to drive across state lines in a Class A truck.
The demands of being a truck driver
The $14,000 a week salary isn’t just because of the shortage of truck drivers. Truck driving is a dangerous profession. Truck drivers who are lucky enough to avoid physical injuries or death often suffer emotional injuries due to the brutally long hours on the road. Many drivers spend weeks at a time away from their families.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2019, the year before the pandemic:
- More than 4,100 people were killed in large truck crashes.
- Just 16% of those deaths were occupants of the truck.
- 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.
- Another 15% of the people killed were pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorcycle riders.
- The large number of 2019 deaths was 31% more than in 2009. 2009 is the lowest yearly death total since IIHS began collecting crash data in 1975.
Common reasons for truck fatalities and injuries include:
- Driving while tired. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours a truck driver can drive during a day or week – without getting proper rest. Still, many truckers push these limits. Other drivers exceed these limits. Trucking companies and the companies that order the goods often push truck drivers to make deliveries based on their profit and not the safety of the driving public. It’s especially difficult to drive trucks with shifting cargo or cargo that exceeds proper weight limits.
- Driving under the influence. Truck drivers may have a drink or two (or more) while taking short rests, or take prescription, OTC or illegal “uppers” to keep themselves awake. This puts them and others at risk.
- Speeding and reckless driving. The need to make same-day deliveries and deliveries ahead of strict schedules causes many drivers to speed, in order to complete their routes on time.
- Driving while distracted. Truck drivers are often distracted because they’re looking at a GPS system, talking on their cellphone, or eating a sandwich while driving. Distracted truck drivers don’t have their eyes on traffic, they can’t respond to emergencies, and they can’t anticipate traffic problems.
It takes a lot of skill to drive large trucks. Most drivers of large trucks need a commercial driver’s license. Drivers need to be experienced at driving their specific type of truck. The new laws that encourage younger driving limits must make sure that all drivers are properly trained.
At Merkel & Cocke, P.A. our Mississippi truck accident lawyers handle all types of crashes including jackknives, rollovers, cargo spills, head-on crashes, sideswipes, and broadside collisions. We file wrongful death claims when a beloved relative passes. We file personal injury claims for spinal cord damage, TBIs, broken bones, and all other types of injuries. If you were hurt or a relative died in a truck accident, call us at 662-627-9641 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Jackson, Greenville, Oxford, or Clarksdale, Mississippi.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.