As the truck industry grapples with driver shortage, efforts are being made to attract new, younger drivers into the profession. However, there are concerns that the next generation may initially present more of a danger on the road.
According to a 2019 report by the American Trucking Association (ATA), the average age of a for-hire truck driver in the US is 46, with other trucking sectors showing an even higher average age. This is a key reason behind the driver shortage.
New drivers must be attracted to fill open roles, but willingly young drivers may potentially cause a decline in fleet safety. If the motivation to avoid fatalities and serious injuries was not enough, crashes can also lead to damaged reputation, increased vehicle downtime and expensive lawsuits.
The CDC listed the following factors putting younger drivers at a higher risk than older drivers:
- They are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.
- They are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next.
- Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2012, 37% were speeding at the time of the crash and 25% had been drinking.
- Compared with other age groups, they have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2013, only 55% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
This isn’t to say that the younger generation shouldn’t be allowed to drive, however the entire truck driver training requirements system would need to be adjusted. A graduated system has been suggested with testing requirements between each level: student, trainee, apprentice, journeyman and master trucker.
Let’s give the next crop of truck drivers intensive, superior training so they can drive into their retirement years instead of a fatal wreck.