Traffic deaths have generally declined over recent years. Improvements in safety technology have offset a growing population to lower highway fatalities. In 2011, we reached the lowest number of highway deaths since 1949, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The downward trend of deadly highway crashes is driven almost entirely by safety gains in passenger automobiles. Motorcycle deaths and fatal truck accidents have risen in recent years. Deadly truck accidents have increased each year since 2009. This bad news is made worse by the fact that economic indicators suggest the industry will grow substantially in the near future.
The American Trucking Associations estimate is that total freight tonnage shipped by trucks will increase 23.5 percent by 2025. That would require an additional 100,000 drivers per year for the next decade. Many trucking companies complain that it is difficult to find qualified drivers. At present, there are more than 30,000 truck driver jobs waiting to be filled. The pay and the working reality of that job have led to shockingly high turnover. Unless trucking companies are forced to amend their ways, it is likely that less qualified, less safe drivers will hit the roads in record numbers in the upcoming years.
In an attempt to reduce the number of exhausted, overworked drivers on the roads, the government passed new hours-of-service rules recently. Limiting the hours a driver can work costs trucking companies money. Naturally, many industry insiders have suggested that fatigued driving is an overstated problem and that truck companies and truckers can police themselves when it comes to how much work is too much. Unfortunately, when there is a financial incentive to take risks, the losers are all too often the people who share the road with interstate trucks. That means virtually all of us.
Source: NBC News, “Truck Accidents Surge, But There’s No National Outcry” by Eamon Javers and Jennifer Schlesinger, 30 July 2014