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Trucking Industry Faces Shrinking, Aging Workforce

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According to NPR, the most common job in a whopping 29 states in 2014 was being a truck driver. American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that there are more than 3.5 million truck drivers moving 10.5 billion tons of freight every year. In fact, more than 70 percent of the nation’s goods are moved in the United States not by trains or planes, but by trucks.

As the ATA says, “Simply – without trucks, America stops.”

But the industry is facing a shortage of roughly 50,000 drivers. And because the average age of a truck driver is 55 years old, that shortage is expected to increase dramatically over the next five to ten years as many truck drivers decide to retire. In fact, it’s projected that the industry will need 890,000 new drivers by 2025.

How will the industry combat this shortage and make sure America keeps moving?

An Aging Workforce

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Because of retirement, the aging of drivers is contributing to the truck driver shortage. But sometimes, the same demographic that’s leaving the industry is the same demographic that’s entering it.

Nearly a third of all truck drivers are between 45 and 54 years old. According to CBS News, drivers 65 and older make up 10 percent of all commercial vehicle operators in the U.S.

Why Older Drivers Stay

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Some senior citizens decide to join the trucking industry to supplement their retirement. As long as they are physically able to drive and pass their tests, they’re hired.

Unlike with pilots, there’s no required retirement age for truck drivers. This policy (or lack thereof) has raised some eyebrows, especially since between 2013 and 2015, accidents involving truck and bus drivers in between the ages of 70 and 90 rose 19 percent.

Some states, like Illinois, require drivers 75 years or older to take a road test when they renew their commercial driver’s license (CDL). But other states, like Indiana, don’t require any test to prove that a driver, regardless of his or her age, is still able to operate a commercial vehicle. Commercial drivers are only subject to tests if their CDL has been expired for at least 6 months.

To determine the general health of commercial drivers regardless of their age, all drivers must submit an Indiana Department of Transportation long form physical when they go to renew their CDL. However, as long as your CDL is not expired and you bring all of your necessary materials, the only test you need to pass to renew your CDL in Indiana is a vision screening.

Fewer Drivers

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Of course, as long as a driver is capable of doing their job, their age shouldn’t matter. But since older drivers will likely retire soon, it’s still necessary to try to hire younger drivers to take their place.

But turnover plagues the trucking industry. Nearly a third of new drivers quit within their first 90 days, and a full 50 percent quit within the first six months.

Millennials are the largest age group in the U.S. workforce, but people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old aren’t sticking around in the trucking industry. In fact, the number of millennials in the trucking industry has fallen by 50 percent.

What are millennials looking for that the truck industry isn’t providing? One thing is higher wages. Although the average hourly wage for truck drivers is $20.96, that’s less than the U.S. average hourly wage for production and nonsupervisory, non-farming employees, which was $22.00 this May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s not to mention that most drivers are paid per mile, not per hour. Because of the Hours of Service regulations, truck drivers can only drive for 11 consecutive hours before they have to take a 10-hour break. That means that truck drivers don’t get paid for the 10 hours they have to rest, even if they’re in the middle of a job and aren’t resting at home. They also don’t get paid if they have to wait for a sending or receiving company to unload and load their trucks. Essentially, any time their wheels aren’t moving, truck drivers aren’t getting paid—not exactly a great selling point to millennials, many of whom are burdened with student loans.

Also, it’s important to note just how hard it is to be a truck driver. Joining the trucking industry is about joining a certain lifestyle. Long hours alone on the road, days away from family and friends, sometimes having to help load and unload, and limited ability to exercise or access healthy food options while on the road isn’t for everyone.

Help from an Indiana Truck Accident Attorney

Even though the trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of workers, you still have rights as a truck driver. Not only are you guaranteed at least a 10-hour break for every 11 hours you drive consecutively, but you also have rights if you are injured in a truck accident through no fault of your own.

If you’re not a truck driver, you have rights as well. It’s important to make sure that the truck driver who caused your accident was adhering to the Hours of Service regulations and had a valid CDL. Also, truck accidents tend to cause more severe damage and more serious bodily injury to drivers and passengers in cars than accidents just between two cars. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you deserve compensation for your injuries.

An Indiana truck accident attorney can help. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online for a free consultation.