A car accident with the words, "truck driver shortages and road safety."

The United States has seen a sudden and rather alarming change to its economy over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From industries being shut down to protect workers and employees being let go due to a significant decrease in business to the worker shortage being faced at this moment, the United States is struggling to get back to pre-COVID conditions.

One industry that had been suffering from shortages before the pandemic struck and has seen the problem only become more prominent is the shortage of truck drivers across the United States. Many consumers are feeling the effect due to supply shortages at local grocery stores – this is because businesses are finding it harder to either ship or acquire their needed supplies to perform their daily operations. While supplies shortages may seem like the most pressing issue to come from the truck driver shortage, it sadly isn’t. Roadway safety has also been severely compromised due to this shortage.

The Hernandez Law Group, P.C. is dedicated to the continuing education of our clients and our community to help promote safety and awareness of current issues. In this article, we are discussing what the truck driver shortage means for Texas roadways and what you can do to reduce the risk of an accident while on the road.

What Is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage?

There are many theories on what is causing the number of truck drivers to decrease in the United States. Some individuals blame the low pay and long hours while others say that the upcoming generation just isn’t interested in that industry.

Regardless of whether any of the above theories is true, there is one fact that cannot be denied: during the lockdown of the pandemic, many training schools and programs for new drivers to earn their CDL licenses were closed down. Some manufacturers were also shut down to protect workers, reducing the need for drivers, resulting in those companies letting a lot of drivers go.

Once the lockdowns were lifted though, the demand for products from these manufacturers rose significantly. Manufacturers and other distributors are now in a mad dash to fulfill orders and obligations but are finding it difficult to get these products where they need to go. With fewer certified truck drivers able to transport their products, it is now falling on those drivers who are still working to pick up the slack. This has led to increased pressure to keep driving, increasing the amount of hours on the road and the risk of an accident.

How Does the Increased Pressure On Truck Drivers Increase the Risk of an Accident?

Under the federal hours of service regulations, the following rules have to be followed by all truck drivers and their companies:

  • A truck driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • A truck driver may not drive beyond 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty, following their 10 consecutive hours off duty.
    • It is important to note that a driver taking 10 hours off does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • All drivers must take a 30-minute break after they have driven for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.
  • All drivers may not exceed 60/70 hours on duty in 7-8 consecutive days. A driver must take at least 34 hours of off-duty time before starting another 60-70 hour workweek.
  • Drivers are allowed to split their required 10-hour off-duty period as long as one off-duty period is at least 2 hours and the other involves at least 7 consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. 
  • Drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions, such as slick roads, are encountered.

These laws are put into place to decrease the risk of driver fatigue while on the road for truck drivers and ensure that they are getting the proper break times to allow them to recover. However, with increased pressure on companies to meet the demands of consumers, truck drivers are being pressured into pushing the limits a bit, increasing the risk of driver fatigue and an accident. Similarly, some drivers may feel pressured to come into work while sick, making their ability to place their full attention on the road extremely difficult. 

This isn’t the only issue that is being seen in regards to road safety with truck drivers. Some companies, to fulfill demand, are hiring less-qualified or even unqualified drivers, which increases the risk of serious accidents as the unqualified drivers are unable to handle the demands of the road.

How to Protect You and Your Family on Texas Roads

In 2020, there were a total of 32,562 crashes involving commercial motor vehicles in the state of Texas. It is important for drivers to understand that the best way to reduce the risk of an accident on the road is by following all traffic laws and safe driving practices, especially around heavy and powerful vehicles such as an 18-wheeler. While there is no sure way to bring the risk of an accident down to zero, there are some steps that you can take to minimize the risk and keep you safer on the road. These are as follows:

  • Stay out of an 18-wheeler’s blind spot: If you cannot see the driver in their mirror, the driver cannot see you either. 18-wheelers have 4 major blind spots:
    • The immediate left and right sides of the truck
    • Immediately in front of the truck
    • Directly behind the truck
  • Never cut off an 18-wheeler: They have a much greater stopping distance than ordinary cars and trucks. It is better to give them plenty of space so that in the chance you have to slam on brakes, they are able to safely stop behind you.
  • Always use your turn signal when changing lanes: Give truck drivers plenty of notice when you need to get into their lane. As mentioned earlier, they cannot stop or slow down as quickly as you can.
  • Do not tailgate a semi-truck: This will limit your view of the road and prevent the truck driver from seeing you.
  • Leave at least 20-25 car lengths between your vehicle and an 18-wheeler: This allows you to see what is in front of the 18-wheeler and give you plenty of time to react should they suddenly stop.
  • Avoid using high beams around other drivers: 18-wheelers sit naturally higher than other standard vehicles. When a car behind them has its brights on, this often reflects off the truck’s side mirrors and right into their eyes.
  • Always be aware of an 18-wheeler’s wide turn radius: Do not try to get around a large truck as it is turning. Stay a couple of lengths behind them and away from their sides to avoid a collision.

Were You Injured in an 18-Wheeler Accident?

If you or a loved one was involved in an 18-wheeler accident that was caused by the negligence of the truck driver, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for damages and medical expenses. An experienced car accident attorney can help handle the legal battle to get the compensation you deserve while you focus on recovering from your injuries. Contact the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. today for more information on our services or to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.