New federal rules have reduced the number of hours any single semi truck driver can legally drive on the road and requires more breaks. The new rules limit drivers to a maximum of eleven continuous hours in a fourteen hour work day. After the 14 hour period, a driver must take a mandatory ten hour rest before beginning to drive again.
Tired Drivers = More Accidents
While laws were enacted to decrease the probability of driver fatigue, they may also increase the likelihood of drivers violating laws such as speeding and exceeding driver hour rules. Semi-truck drivers, many of which are paid per mile driven, have felt the economic pinch as gas prices have remained high and their driving hours have been reduced.
Driver fatigue can cause drivers to lose concentration, doze off, and have delayed reaction times increasing the likelihood of collisions. According to Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMSCA) estimates truck driver fatigue is involved in about 13 percent of fatal truck crashes, killing nearly 500 people a year.
According to FMCSA data from 2009, 286,000 accidents involving large trucks were recorded. Because commercial vehicle are so much larger and heavier than passenger vehicle, they result in thousands of fatalities and serious injuries each year.
An Occupation in Decline?
Truckers have always had a difficult occupation. Driving a large commercial vehicle thousands of miles per week in sometimes extreme weather conditions and long hours away from home haven’t always made truck driving a highly sought after career path.
However, reduced driving time and higher operating costs has also made semi-truck driving a less desired occupation. This means potentially less skilled and qualified drivers on the road.
Other federal regulations are also having an impact on the number of applicants. A law enacted in 2012 requires Commercial Drivers License holders in the U.S. to provide proof of medical fitness from their state’s home driver licensing agency.
According to the American Trucking Association, there are about 25,00 unfilled truck driving jobs in the U.S. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of semi-truck driver is 55 and the government projects that 330,000 new drivers will be needed by 2020.