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What’s the real reason 20-somethings don’t want to be truckers?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted March 18th, 2015

truck driver shortageThere’s a big truck driver shortage in America today.

Currently, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the U.S. is short approximately 30,000 truck drivers.

And the truck driver shortage is expected to skyrocket over the next decade. As an attorney, I’ve already seen what this leads to: Many companies putting clearly unfit drivers behind the wheel to get these trucks on the road. I’ve written about various claims that attorneys can bring when this happens, including negligent hiring, entrustment, training and supervision claims, and also claims that can be brought against additional defendants.

But today I want to focus on why there’s a shortage of experienced and qualified truck drivers.

This driver shortage stems in part from the hard lifestyle that comes with being a truck driver. People often forget just how tough this life really is for the people who drive trucks for a living. I represent many truckers, and I know first-hand how hardworking and difficult this life can be. Trucks aren’t called “rolling sweatshops” in many parts of the country today for nothing.

It’s also a tough life because many truckers are often pressured by their safety managers and owners to break safety laws to get loads to their destinations quicker. That puts people in a terrible position.

But there’s another big reason for the truck driver shortage that hasn’t been commonly been discussed: The advent of driverless commercial trucks. One day, possibly soon, this will change the industry.

I recently read an interesting article on, “Why aren’t 20-somethings interested in trucking?” that touched on this. The article describes millennials as being a “generation of leisure,” and implied that many are adverse to the hard lifestyle involved in trucking.

But maybe young people aren’t taking truck driver jobs for another reason?

Given the way technology is affecting this younger generation, maybe these young people aren’t going into trucking jobs because a there’s a lot to suggest today that a young prospective trucker only may have a decade or two before these driver jobs become largely obsolete by autonomous trucks that can run 24/7 — barring maintenance. This is a world without the human side of trucking. It is a world without human error and a world without truck accidents.

My prediction is that because of the huge economic benefits involved, autonomous trucks will likely be adopted first on a large scale within the commercial transportation industry, before we see autonomous passenger cars. Think of a world without any shortage of truck drivers, a world where insurance costs will plummet because there are no more truck accidents, and a world with no hours of service that limit how long trucks can be on the road because there are no longer human beings driving them that need to rest. Think of a world where fleets can essentially run around the clock as long as they are being properly maintained.

I addressed this possibility of driverless commercial vehicles and “robot trucks” as a possible answer to our truck driver shortage in Bridge Magazine:

“I wonder if it’s 10 years from now or 20 years. But there will be a seismic shift. The economic incentive is too powerful.”

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.
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