How America’s Truck Driver Shortage Will Impact You
On October 6, the American Transportation Research Institute issued its annual report of the most critical issues affecting the trucking industry in America. For the third year in a row, the number one concern for folks in the trucking industry is the industry-wide shortage of qualified truck drivers.
But why should you care about a truck driver shortage? Most of us have never worked in the commercial transportation industry.
The truth is that the truck driver shortage impacts us daily in the United States, from grocery shopping to sharing the roads with trucks on your commute to work.
The trucking shortage will delay instant shopping gratification
First, truck drivers remain an essential cog in the supply chain wheel for nearly every product that you buy. Whether you are shopping for cherries at Walmart or browsing for a new printer on Amazon, almost everything you purchase is, at some point, moved by semi-tractor trailers.
Currently, there is a shortage of over 60,000 drivers in the trucking industry. This shortage may double in the next ten years as the industry struggles to hire new drivers. In as little as five years, the driver shortage may drastically affect the supply chain. In other words, your fresh produce or free two-day delivery may become a thing of the past.
The shortage also hurts the safety of trucking industry
From our perspective as trucking lawyers, the driver shortage is concerning because of the effects it has on the safety of the industry. Of course, many trucking companies will continue to vet and train drivers the right way—but there will always be bad actors.
We have seen it countless times while representing victims of trucking crashes. Small mom-and-pop transportation outfits struggle with recruiting new qualified drivers and retaining the ones they already have.
When that happens, some of these companies take shortcuts. They may fail to adequately screen drivers, implement sufficient driver safety training programs, or hire a compliance officer or safety manager to make sure they’re following the rules of the road. These shortcuts lead to unqualified and untrained drivers behind the wheels of 80,000 pound big rigs. That’s a danger to you and everyone else sharing the roads with them.
Self-driving trucks = solution? It’s not that simple
We must also look down the road at what solutions the industry may come to in resolving the driver shortage problem. One option that is already being explored is self-driving trucks. In fact, UPS has already deployed self-driving trucks to haul cargo back and forth between Phoenix and Tucson. Currently, these trucks have a driver and an engineer on-board as backup, but make no mistake – the goal of the self-driving truck is to eventually make truck drivers obsolete.
As with any technology, however, there will be kinks in the implementation of self-driving trucks. Long after the industry solves its truck driver shortage crisis, trucking lawyers and other industry leaders will be called upon to make sure that the technology being deployed is safe for all of the motoring public.