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Getting to the roots of the national truck driver shortage

Written by Steve Gursten Posted September 20th, 2014

Lawyers need to understand one reason so many truckers are being pressured to violate safety regulations

truck driver shortage

It’s no secret the trucking industry is currently experiencing a huge problem – a national truck driver shortage. Currently, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the U.S. is short approximately 30,000 truck drivers.

This truck driver shortage is expected to skyrocket over the next decade.

But why the shortage of people willing to drive trucks, especially when every day, we still hear of unemployment numbers and a jobless economic recovery?

It’s no secret that driving a truck is hard work. I’ve had many friends and clients over the years who are truck drivers (many people don’t understand that many truck accident cases are caused by the passenger car driver, not the truck driver).  It’s a job that can impact health. The hours and time away from home can be hard on truckers. There is, in short, a reason why commercial trucks are called “rolling sweatshops” in so many areas of the country.

But there’s another reason, and it’s a reason lawyers who litigate truck cases and our readers also need to understand.

Because of the inherent dangers of interstate trucking, and with the industry heavily regulated, there will always be significant pressure to break the rules exerted on many drivers by their employing truck companies.

Last summer, in July 2013, the hours of service were modified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve trucking safety. The increased safety regulations limit how long a trucker can legally drive, and also mandate certain rest periods. This is great for the safety of the driver and the public, as this regulation is formulated to directly combat one of the leading causes for serious truck accidents – driver fatigue.

But there are some very bad apples out there. There are (sadly), far too many  trucking companies who  will coerce and even threaten truckers and attempt to force them to violate these mandatory safety rules. Companies routinely overload  trucks, assign routes and require a truck driver to be at a certain place at a certain time for a shipment that is simply impossible to do legally and safely.

Often, the truck driver will tell you this. All the attorney needs to do is ask.

And this goes to a larger theme of this legal blog, and a major reason why we created the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable law firm.  The real threat to public safety is far too often the companies that are forcing drivers to violate rules. And because very few lawyers who litigate commercial trucking accident cases have the experience to recognize this, very often legal investigation and legal discovery only focuses on the 3-5 seconds of the crash itself, and not on the company that created the situation in which the crash was bound to occur.

As a result, many truck drivers are left in a terrible personal predicament. Drivers are forced to face a backlash from the  company, or to violate federal and state safety rules. This is not the only reason for the truck driver shortage – but it’s certainly a contributing factor. So long as the trucking industry is premised on a dangerous economic model, based upon miles instead of hours, and so long as dangerous companies are valuing profit over peoples’ lives – even their own drivers – this  pressure from employers will be one more reason why so many truckers are looking elsewhere for a new livelihood.

Related information:

FMSCA to target truck companies that push truckers to break the law

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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