There are a large number of 18-wheelers passing through Lake Charles and western Louisiana every day and residents know just how dangerous these large commercial vehicles can be. The size and speed of tractor-trailer trucks can lead to serious, if not fatal, accidents in Louisiana. While the trucking industry is very closely regulated for safety, there has been a severe shortage of trucker drivers which has the potential of stretching current drivers to the limit.
With the 90 percent turnover in just the first three months of 2012 and the estimated national shortage of 200,000 truckers, the current people driving in Louisiana may find themselves with even more time behind the wheel. This could lead to trucker fatigue, opening them up to a whole series of mistakes, errors in judgment and miscalculations that could lead to a crash.
One of the reasons why there is such a serious shortage of truckers, especially during such an economic depression, is that the federal regulation requiring interstate truck drivers be at least 21 prevents many trucking companies from recruiting recent high school graduates. As these young Louisianans find jobs in other fields, it may be harder to get them to reconsider trucking when they hit 21.
One of the biggest factors, however, is that the majority of truckers are baby boomers and many of them are retiring. This can best be seen in the high rates of turnover in many of the large trucking firms. The 90 percent turnover in the first quarter of 2012 is up from the 39 percent for all of 2010. There are fewer and fewer truckers from the younger generations.
It remains to be seen just how detrimental this widespread shortage of truckers will be for safety on Louisiana roads.
Source: Journal Star, “Trucking companies dealing with shortage of drivers,” Matt Olberding, June 30, 2012