Due to Driver Shortage, Are Older, Less Safe Drivers of Commercial Trucks on the Road?

November 14th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

There are tens of thousands of openings for commercial truck drivers. America loves shopping on the internet, the economy is improving and there’s a high turnover rate for drivers. Trucking companies are eager to fill openings, offering bonuses to keep drivers behind the wheel and to recruit new ones. That may result in veteran drivers working beyond their normal retirement age and new drivers trying a new career later in life.

By one estimate, about 48,000 drivers are needed to transport 70% of the nation’s goods, reports CBS News. Drivers who are older than 65 account for about 10% of commercial vehicle operators in the country. CBS did an investigation to see if rising numbers of older drivers results in increasing risks for those of us on the road. They found:

  • In 2009, Ronnie Hooks became an elder at his church. Family members traveled from Oklahoma to St. Louis for the event. On the way, a semi truck driven by 76-year-old Donald Creed rolled on top of three cars, one of them with the Hooks family inside, killing ten, including Hooks’ parents and two brothers.
  • In August of this year in New Jersey, a bus was T-boned by another bus driven by a 70-year-old. Two people died.
  • Just days later, a commercial truck driven by a 74-year-old collided with traffic in a construction zone in upstate New York, injuring ten.

CBS also found:

  • A 19% increase in accidents involving commercial truck and bus drivers who are in their 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s in the last three years.
  • From 2013 to 2015, there were more than 6,636 accidents involving elderly truck drivers in just 12 states.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in the 1990’s realized reaction time and stamina can decrease as drivers age, and it considered creating regular skills tests for older commercial drivers. CBS spoke with Rose McMurray, a senior executive at the agency at the time, who said there was a political backlash against the idea, so the issue was left to individual states to handle (or not). She said the initiative was shelved due to the driver shortage and federal employment law prohibiting age discrimination.

Trucking schools are recruiting seniors, promising good benefits, travel and money to supplement their retirement income. CBS sent a 70-year-old former Texas state trooper with a hidden camera and microphone to pose as a prospective student to Roadmaster, a school recruiting retirees, in Pennsylvania. He was told there was no age limit but a physical must be passed to drive a commercial truck. The recruiter stated that trucking companies don’t care how old the drivers are. He claimed to have had two students in their 80’s learn to drive a truck.

While airlines are facing a shortage of pilots, in part due to its mandatory retirement age of 65, commercial truck drivers can drive as long as they want, as long as that physical is passed.

If you or a family member has been injured in a commercial truck accident in Kentucky, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain justice.