The bulk of all freight in America is transported from place to place by truck. There are, however, not enough qualified truck drivers to move everything that needs to be moved. Trucks.com reports that the trucking industry is facing an unprecedented crisis in staffing which could have a profound impact on the economy and consumer consumption. The majority of leaders within the trucking industry list staffing problems as their major challenge, and estimates suggest at least 96,000 people have to become truck drivers annually over the next 10 years in order to alleviate the problem of keeping trucking jobs filled.
Because there are not enough truck drivers, trucking companies may be forced to be less selective in their hiring process. In many cases, it is older seniors who are interested in applying for trucking jobs. Trucking companies are routinely hiring these seniors, claiming it would be against anti-discrimination laws to refuse to bring older workers into their workforce.
Safety advocates, however, are arguing there should be legislation requiring regular skills tests for older drivers. As an officer who investigated a devastating truck accident caused by a 76-year-old truck driver warned in response to concerns about trucking companies hiring older workers: "The industry is looking for truck drivers. There's a shortage in truck drivers. So they're not going to self-regulate. The only way that that could be done is on the federal level."
Safety advocates argue there needs to be more regulation of older drivers because senior citizens experience age-related declines that impact their ability to safely drive large commercial trucks. Older people tend to experience cognitive decline. They may suffer from impaired vision. Their reflexes tend to be slower and they are not as fast to react. In some cases, they are more prone to sudden medical emergencies due to health conditions they develop as they age.
All of these things that happen to seniors as they get older all mean that seniors are simply not going to be as capable as younger drivers in operating commercial trucks. The effects of this are being felt already, as older truckers continue working as they pass retirement age while fewer young people seek trucking jobs. In fact, CBS reports that there has been a 19 percent increase in truck collisions in the past three years involving drivers in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Between 2013 and 2015, more than 6,636 crashes involving commercial trucks and buses happened with drivers who were 70 or older.
Trucking companies have a responsibility to hire qualified, capable drivers, even with the trucking shortage. If a trucking company fails to hire competent drivers and a crash occurs as a result of a truck driver, the company who employs that driver could be held legally responsible for all of the consequences the collision causes to occur.