Training Program For Young Tractor-Trailer Drivers Raises Concerns
Due to an ongoing truck driver shortage, the federal government recently launched a program designed to train more young truck drivers, according to the Associated Press.
“This program creates a rigorous safety training program, requiring an additional 400 hours of advanced safety training, in which participants are evaluated against specific performance benchmarks,” Nick Geale, vice president of workforce safety for the American Trucking Association, said in an interview with the AP.
However, traffic safety advocates expressed concerns that the new program could result in more truck accidents. That’s because it's been shown that younger truck drivers cause more crashes than more experienced drivers.
“This is no surprise to any American who drives a vehicle,” Peter Kurdock, general counsel for Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, said to the AP.
What is the new young truck driver training program?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently launched a training program for truck drivers under 21 years old. The FMCSA created the program since the trucking industry estimates there’s a truck driver shortage of approximately 80,000 drivers. The truck driver shortage has been made worse “as demand to move freight reaches historic highs,” the American Trucking Association told the AP.
Under the new FMCSA program, up to 3,000 truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) will receive additional safety training. Once drivers complete the training program, they will eventually be able to drive a tractor-trailer across state lines. Currently, truck drivers under 21 with a CDL cannot drive across state lines.
How often do inexperienced truckers cause crashes?
While road safety advocates understand the need for more commercial truck drivers, safety experts fear the trucking industry will use “skewed data” from the small, pilot program to significantly expand the number of young truck drivers on the road.
That’s particularly important since these young truck drivers would be operating large commercial trucks. When fully loaded, an 18-wheeler can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, which is significantly more than most other vehicles on the road.
Worst of all, traffic accident data consistently shows that young, inexperienced truck drivers cause more truck accidents than experienced drivers. In particular, one study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) found that truck drivers under 34 years old caused 13 times more fatalities than drivers the same age operating passenger vehicles.
Another study done by the National Surface Transportation Safety Center at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that truck drivers with less than one year of experience cause significantly more accidents than other, more experienced truck drivers.
Why do inexperienced drivers cause truck accidents?
Inexperienced commercial truck drivers cause collisions for many different reasons, including but not limited to:
- Tailgating or driving too close to vehicles in front of them, causing a rear-end truck accident.
- Taking a corner too fast (especially on a highway exit ramp) and causing a rollover accident.
- Misjudging hazardous weather conditions and other dangerous situations.
- Texting while driving or not focusing on the road due to other distractions (e.g., eating, drinking, talking on a phone, self-grooming).
- Not taking mandatory breaks and falling asleep at the wheel.
- Not properly maintaining a truck, resulting in a crash caused by a tire blowout, defective brakes, or some other type of mechanical defect.
Experience matters when it comes to driving a tractor-trailer. That’s why it’s important for truck accident victims to understand their legal rights and options.
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