The trucking industry faces an employee shortage that rises to crisis levels. Here’s how that puts you at greater risk when you drive.

Driving a truck (of any kind) for a living is the seventh most dangerous profession, leading to 24.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2016.

918 truck drivers lost their lives in 2016, while 80,180 experienced “nonfatal” injuries, says a USA Today article.

Of the 25 most dangerous jobs in America, truck-driving employs the most workers at around 3 million.

“Overexertion and bodily reaction” are the most common causes of accidents.

And, analysts believe companies are short 60,000 – 100,000 drivers, which could triple by 2026. This has prompted the proposal of the Drive-SAFE Act in Congress, which aims to lower the legal age to drive trucks to 18 (from 21).

Why the shortage?

Working and lifestyle conditions. Truck drivers have to sit for long hours, which gets hard on your body. They don’t see their families for extended periods of time, which leads to high divorce rates. And that also means they don’t get to do fun things they would normally do around their home.

The pay (around $42,000 for the average truck driver) simply isn’t high enough for many to justify sacrificing those things.

To complicate the matter, demand is surging. Consider all the internet-based businesses both big (like Amazon), and smaller mom-and-pop stores online. That’s the way the market buys today. So, many shipments travel longer distances that require truck delivery.

How Does This Affect Your Safety?

To keep contracts and profits in place, companies have to compensate for their driver shortage somehow.

Companies may have to relax their hiring standards and take on drivers they wouldn’t normally like to have. But, it comes down to having less-than-ideal drivers and keeping contracts and profits, or losing the latter entirely.

Others may pressure their employees to work longer hours. Employees may self-impose pressure and push their bodies beyond what they can handle.

And companies who already break the law may do so even more often.

Combine all that with the possibility of 18-20 year-olds having the ability to become truck drivers, and you have the perfect recipe for increasing your safety risk.

What Can You Do?

Whether the law proposing to reduce the legal commercial truck-driving age to 18 passes or not, you’re still at increased risk. And until trucks become self-driving years from now, that additional risk’s probably going to hang around.

So, the best you can do is drive defensively when you see a semi-truck. Make it your goal to stay behind a semi-truck, rather than to the side or in front of that truck.

And remember, this applies to all kinds of delivery trucks too. So, if you see a smaller UPS or FedEx truck, or another smaller delivery truck, aim to stay away. You just don’t know how exhausted the driver is.

You don’t have to panic when you see a truck on the road. After all, it’s more likely than not nothing will happen.

However, as you can clearly see, your risk is increasing. So you have to take extra precaution.

And if you do find yourself involved in a semi-truck accident, remember to work with the best personal injury lawyer you can find because you only pay when your case wins.