Has the Shortage of Truck Drivers Led to Inadequate Training?

 In Trucking Accident

The trucking industry needs more truck drivers, according to trucking safety news from the American Trucking Associations (ATA). ATA reports a shortage of drivers that could reach nearly 73,500 by the end of 2016. This shortage is due in large part to the aging and widespread retirement of the current workforce: the median age of truck drivers today is 49.

To attract a new generation of drivers, the trucking industry has started to raise compensation: wages have gone up 8 to 12 percent a year in the last few years, according to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded average wages for a general freight truck driver at $41,690 in 2014, and this number is expected to grow as the economy stabilizes.

While this high rate of pay may attract new employees who can fill the shoes of an aging driver population, there are some data to indicate that these new drivers are being placed behind the wheel with the bare minimum of training required to operate a big rig. A quarterly survey conducted by Transport Capital Partners asked trucking industry executives a number of questions regarding recent trends and future business expectations. Across the board, 84 percent of carriers for large or small companies supported allowing younger drivers (i.e., under 21) to drive — with proper training — in interstate commerce. 33 percent of carriers surveyed said they currently hire entry-level drivers, and 64 percent indicate that they would be interested in hiring entry-level drivers in the future.

While it sounds encouraging that industry execs support “proper training” for new drivers, the fact is that “proper training” often equates to “minimal training” in the world of commercial trucking, where requirements to drive a commercial truck are far less stringent than many people would expect.

In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle, drivers must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which is issued by the state of employment. Receiving your CDL involves having a permit for 14 days and passing a Skills Test, which consists of three parts: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website states that “your state may even allow you to use their ‘training aid’ to help you remember items on the vehicle inspection checklist.”

Beyond these basic requirements, there are very few other criteria an individual must meet in order to drive a big rig on a busy commercial highway (FMCSA itself recommends more and continued training for commercial truck drivers). While the majority of trucking companies have internal training programs to augment the minimum required training, there are many companies who believe that the bare minimum of training required by law is “good enough.” Unfortunately, there are data to suggest that inexperienced drivers who work at these companies may pose a significant danger on the road.

According to an in-depth study conducted by the FMCSA, approximately 75 percent of large truck crashes in a studied period between 2001 and 2003 occurred because of driver error. The study elaborated that 28 percent of large truck crashes occurred because of driver recognition error, meaning that the driver did not pay proper attention or failed to adequately observe the situation. 9 percent of crashes occurred because of driver performance issues, and 38 percent of crashes involved poor decision making skills on the part of the driver. These results raise the question of whether many large trucking crashes could be prevented with better driver training.

While there are any number of quality truck drivers and quality driving schools in the U.S., there are still those who operate trucking companies with only short-term profits in mind. The inexperienced drivers who work at these companies may pose a danger to passenger vehicles as well as the capable drivers that work at trucking companies who provide in-depth training and adequate time to learn.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one has been injured by a commercial vehicle due to someone else’s negligence, Truck Wreck Justice Attorney Morgan Adams can help. Please contact Truck Wreck Justice at (432) 265-2020 or fill out our online contact form if you are seeking legal representation or assistance after a trucking accident. We offer free consultations to help you get a better understanding of your situation, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay a cent unless you get the justice you deserve.


Costello, B., & Suarez, R. (2015, October). Truck driver shortage analysis 2015. American Trucking Associations. Retrieved from http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/News%20and%20Information/Reports%20Trends%20and%20Statistics/10%206%2015%20ATAs%20Driver%20Shortage%20Report%202015.pdf

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2015, December 17). Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers: Pay.  In Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 edition. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm#tab-5

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2006, March). Report to Congress on the large truck crash causation studySpringfield, VA: National Technical Information Service. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/ltccs-2006.pdf

Mikes, R. & Batts, L. (2014). High optimism for future volume and rate increases now coupled with actual rate increases. Transport Capital Partners. Retrieved from http://www.transportcap.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/BES_Q4_2014_Survey_Results.pdf

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