Truck accidents in New York and New Jersey are among some of the worst accidents on the road. When a passenger vehicle is involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, the results are often catastrophic for those in the car. Now, with the trucking industry struggling with a massive driver shortfall, it seems like things are only poised to get worse.
What Is Causing the Trucker Shortage?
Even before the pandemic, the trucking industry had been struggling to avoid going off a demographic “cliff.” The average trucker in the U.S. is 55 years old, and more than 60% are over the age of 45.
The trucking industry is known for continuously pushing lawmakers to raise requirements and safety standards for its drivers. Truckers provide transport for 70% of all freight moved within the U.S. As the population grows, there are more and more goods that need to be moved by truck around the country. Unfortunately, the supply of truckers isn’t keeping pace with the demand for their skills.
The pandemic has only exacerbated this problem, with the industry now facing a shortage of about 80,000 drivers. Some efforts to stave off this problem have inadvertently made it worse. In particular, many large carriers have taken to increasing pay in order to attract drivers. But these pay hikes are enabling drivers to take fewer routes and work shorter days, which just adds to the shortfall.
How Is the Trucker Shortage Affecting Accidents?
The shortage of truck drivers has led to some carriers offering to pay for training and certification in order to recruit new drivers. Others are partnering with third-party training organizations to offer guaranteed placement to those who complete the program. The result is a rising number of truck drivers who are not very experienced drivers. That inexperience raises the risk of accidents.
This inexperience makes them more prone to basic mistakes like driving too close to other vehicles, struggling to keep the vehicle in its lane, driving in the wrong lane, or speeding excessively to cut down on time between stops.
What You Need to Know if You’ve Been in a Truck Accident
In the U.S., commercial carriers must have a $1 million coverage policy. If you have someone that has had a serious accident with multiple fractures, internal injuries, brain damage—that may not even cover the medical bills. Then there are consequential costs, such as lost wages, making your home wheelchair accessible, or daily medical assistance for someone who becomes brain-damaged.
This is big trouble for a lot of claimants. If you’ve been in a truck accident, the first thing you need to do is get a lawyer. This is not something you can afford to negotiate yourself.
The second thing you need to do is work with your attorney to find additional avenues of compensation. If the driver’s actions were beyond mere negligence—such as excessive speeding while being 15,000 lbs. overweight—then the driver can be named as a defendant in addition to the company.
I would also recommend you have a mechanical engineer go over that truck and make sure the vehicle was roadworthy. If it wasn’t, that could trigger an opportunity to also recover punitive damages beyond the policy itself. It may even make the mechanic liable as well.
You should also have your attorney demand to see copies of the company’s official hiring procedures over the years. During my time as an adjuster, I would do this for my claimants. And even then, long before the pandemic, companies would try to lower certain hiring standards or requirements for the sake of the bottom line. If you can prove that the truck driver wouldn’t have been hired years ago, that can also be used to prove egregious behavior.
My sincere hope is that the trucking industry will find a way to attract new and better talent that won’t put the rest of us at risk. But I fear instead it will lead to more accidents and more lives permanently changed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Salvator Nuzzo has spent more than 30 years as an insurance adjuster for various major insurers. Throughout his career, he has handled an estimated 8,000 claims.