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Trucking ahead: Creating a new kind of trucker to fill national truck driver shortage

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 15th, 2013

New training, education and recruitment methods are building a new kind of trucker to fill shortage, but safety mistakes of the past cannot be repeated

As the economy slowly bounces back following the woes of recent years, there is one industry that has come storming back: trucking.

A combination of an unusually high number of retirements combined with the economic recovery have actually created a shortage of truck drivers. It’s estimated that there are approximately 130,000 truck driver positions that need to be filled.

The question that experienced truck accident lawyers, safety advocates, and the trucking industry itself is asking is, what this trucker shortage will mean?

Will it mean that more and more commercial carriers will take less qualified candidates to fill needed jobs? And what will it mean for the safety of all of those on the road as this trucker shortage is expected to grow?

But here is where it gets really interesting…

Trucking has changed… at least for the good trucking companies that play by the rules. The days of being away for weeks on end are gone. Federal regulations have limited  the number of hours a truck driver can drive.  Yes, those hours of service still need to be enforced, but there are now safety regulation requiring truck drivers and commercial carriers to be more safety conscious.  As a byproduct, there is now more safety education required than there was in the past.

Additionally, some trucking companies have evolved and now provide electronic aids like GPS, and even Internet access inside the cab to make pickup and delivery easier. This becoming a dynamic, tech savvy industry, not the trucking industry of yesterday.

This new trucking industry requires a new kind of truck driver; highly skilled, specially trained in safety, and highly qualified. This not only creates a good employee, but it prevents truck accidents and saves lives – which is one of the founding missions of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable.

We are seeing things that simply did not occur in the past.  Transport companies are partnering with city colleges to breed a new kind of workforce.  These hybrid programs are not a traditional trucking school.  One such program at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago, uses virtual training and a state-of-art trucking simulator to train this new workforce.

Another interesting trend is where these new drivers are being recruited. You might be surprised to learn that many veterans returning to the civilian job force are finding work as truck drivers. This makes sense.  A veteran who operated large military vehicles (or even 18 wheelers) in harsh climates is well qualified to operate trucks on the highways of America. Companies are looking to hire these people. In fact, several companies have banded together to organize a job fair for veterans with logistics and transport experience.  Clearly, our veterans are well qualified, tech savvy, people with a strong work ethic.

This new generation of truck driver holds the keys to the future, and can drive the American economy forward.  However, what remains to be seen is whether this new wave of truckers will be responsible and safety conscious.

But the new generation must avoid past safety mistakes

This promising new wave of drivers must avoid mistakes of the past. Just as GPS has replaced the folded up map in the cabin, safe practices must replace driving too long, not resting enough, and abusing substances.

This new group, though inexperienced in driving trucks on American highways, has learning tools that were not available before. There is more knowledge, more literature and more safety guidelines to provide direction. Technology and experience have laid the groundwork for moving goods across the country safely. The burden now shifts to these new drivers, and to the companies themselves, to adhere to safe industry practices and avoid accidents.

As we have said on this blog before: all the safety protocol in the world will not prevent a big truck accident when the carrier and the driver deliberately cut corners.

Here’s to a safer future for us all.

Related information:

Why driving a truck is more complicated than driving a car


Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.