The rapid growth of online retail companies and general economic expansion has boosted the demand for commercial shipping via large trucks. The trucking industry is having a hard time keeping up, as the need for truck drivers outpaces the supply of workers. The average age of drivers is increasing, too. Could an aging workforce be increasingly responsible for truck accidents? Here’s what you need to know about how age of a driver may affect your chances of being in a truck accident, and what to do if you’re involved in an accident with a large truck or delivery vehicle.
The Average Age of Truck Drivers Is Increasing
The American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that nearly 69% of all freight is carried on the highway, yet there was a shortage of about 38,000 drivers in 2014. The ATA’s numbers also show that the median age of a truck driver is as high as 49 for over-the-road (OTR) drivers and 52 years of age for private fleet drivers, compared to a national median worker age of 42.
The lack of drivers and increasing age of the workforce may be leading to more dangerous road conditions. Approximately 415,000 large truck crashes were reported to the police in 2015, according to the latest accident figures compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA’s data also shows that 83,000 of those accidents resulted in injuries, and almost 3,600 wrecks lead to fatalities.
The Effects of Age on Driving
The National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) notes that as we age, our physical conditions change. Aging can lead to the following physical changes that may affect the ability to drive safely:
- Stiffness and weakness in muscles and joints can make it difficult to operate a vehicle.
- Decreased vision can lead to difficulty reading signs or seeing other cars on the road.
- Hearing loss may make it harder to hear honking horns, emergency vehicles, or other hazards.
- Slower reaction times can make it difficult to avoid a potential collision.
- Medication use may cause mental or physical changes that make driving unsafe.
Experts have long recognized that aging can be a serious challenge drivers of automobiles, which weigh about two tons, or 4,000 pounds. Now consider that the average weight of a fully-loaded commercial semi-trailer truck can approach 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds, and it becomes clear that the dangers posed by an unsafe truck driver are potentially that much worse.
Yet according to a CBS News report, trucking companies often seek to hire drivers who are 65 or older, who may be seeking to supplement their post-retirement income. While many older drivers have years of experience and may be safe drivers, the fact is that there are no additional age-based screening requirements to keep unsafe elder drivers off the road. Worse, there are cases where trucking companies are hiring drivers who are medically unfit to drive. FMCSA data shows that as many as one in eight driver violations are issued due to medical issues.
What to Do After an Accident With a Commercial Truck
If you’ve been in an accident that’s caused by a commercial truck, the best thing that you may choose to do for yourself is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Truck accidents can be legally complicated, as there may be multiple parties involved, including the driver, the trucking company, multiple insurers, and more. A lawyer with experiencing handling truck accidents will know how to best help you pursue your claim for damages in a court of law, so that you can receive the compensation that you’re owed. After a truck accident, you may be eligible to recover for:
- Any medical bills that result from the accident, now or in the future,
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy costs,
- Mental therapy costs due to the trauma of the event,
- The costs of repair or replacement for your vehicle,
- Pain and suffering,
- Funeral costs for loved ones killed in the accident.
Wayne Wright LLP has been assisting victims of commercial truck accidents recover for decades, and we would like to help you after your accident. If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one after a crash with a truck in Texas, reach out to us today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal situation.