Why Truckers Need Better Training

Training truck on driving range

Truck drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of car crashes. In a given year, there are 6,000,000 American car accidents, of which 450,000 involve trucks. With only 2.5 million truckers on the road at a time, it’s clear that something is very wrong in the trucking industry.

One potential factor is that the turnover rate for truck drivers is very high, but training requirements have become gradually relaxed over the past 10 years. Could that mean truckers need better training?

Changing Demographics

The trucking industry faces a huge shortage. Already there are nearly 90,000 truck driver openings and that number is expected to quintuple over the next five years. The average American truck driver is 55 years old. As experienced drivers look toward retirement, they’ll leave an opening that could reduce the workforce by upwards of 20%.

At the same time, the trucking industry faces a turnover rate of 96%. New truck drivers entering the industry find themselves dissatisfied with the work and many are leaving within a year of earning their CDL (commercial driver’s license).

These changes to the industry have sparked a chain reaction where trucking companies try to make driving jobs more appealing, while the trucking lobby encourages the government to change CDL requirements and allow truckers to stay on the road even longer. So far, this has led to more new truckers with less training, and more truck accidents.

CDL Requirements

The requirements to earn an entry-level commercial driver’s license (CDL) looked very different just 10 years ago. Earning a CDL required classroom “theory” hours, a permit test, hours on the driving range, and several days of behind-the-wheel driving with an instructor before aspiring truckers could take their final test.

Since then, requirements have gradually shifted toward more lax requirements, which the trucking industry calls a “skills-based format.” With the release of new entry-level CDL requirements in 2020, required training to earn a CDL is surprisingly slim.

Under the new requirements, drivers pursuing a Class A license are no longer required to attend classroom hours or lab. Instead, applicants can take the multiple-choice written test at any time and receive their driver’s permit so long as they answer 80% of the questions correctly.

Behind-the-Wheel Hours

With permit in hand, a trucker needs just 30 hours of recorded behind-the-wheel experience on public roads or a driving range before taking their final test. This is less than half the required hours from a decade ago.

The new requirements also include a means of allowing drivers to test with even fewer behind-the-wheel hours than normal. If a new driver opts to take their behind-the-wheel hours with a school, those 50-minute “academic hours” count as a full hour for meeting the required 30-hour limit.

The problem is that, assuming classroom hours start as soon as the driver gets behind the wheel, that lost 10 minutes from each hour adds up to five hours over the course of the training or a 15% reduction in total training hours.

Preparing for the Worst

The average cross-country truck driver sits behind the wheel for 11 hours each day. Hour-long behind-the-wheel trainings and a DMV skills test do not provide a full picture of the average trucker’s day or what they’ll experience on difficult roads.

Truckers need more training, not less. Causation reports from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have found that truck driver inexperience plays a significant role in trucking accidents. As the majority of today’s truckers retire and new drivers with less training and behind-the-wheel experience fill their roles, it seems likely that truck accidents will only increase.

If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or even wrongful death in a trucking accident, you need a law firm that meets your needs. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Bryan truck accident lawyer from The Payne Law Group, don’t hesitate to contact our firm at (979) 300-7406 or send us an email.

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