With the shortage of truck drivers, the United States is looking for ways to increase the truck driver population. One of the latest proposals to help the shortage is to hire teens to drive commercial trucks. While this may seem like a viable solution, there are several worrying aspects. Driving an 18-wheeler is a challenge and hiring inexperienced drivers can make the roads more dangerous. In general, teenagers are more susceptible to making mistakes while driving. This includes being easily distracted by phones or music while driving, or failing to recognize a potential danger in time to react to it.
What is the commercial driver pilot program?
CBS News reports that In September of 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first introduced the idea of hiring teenaged and young adult drivers, between the ages of 18-20, to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. In November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law by President Biden, which requires the FMCSA to have pilot programs in place “that would allow employers to establish an apprenticeship program for certain drivers between the ages of 18 and 21.”
There are those who support this act, such as the American Trucking Associations — which is the largest national trade association for the industry — and the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, but there are also those who oppose it. Per CBS News, “Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and other safety organizations noted younger drivers are more distracted and have higher rates of crashes. They also cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that teenagers are unable to correctly analyze dangerous situations.”
What are the dangers of teen commercial truck drivers?
Driving a commercial truck is not an easy job for even the most experienced older drivers, so expecting teenagers to be able to safely drive these vehicles for long distances might be expecting too much. Car accidents are the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); allowing teens to drive an 18-wheeler – which is bigger, heavier, and even harder to control – will likely increase the number of fatal accidents teen drivers have.
We are afraid that younger, less experienced drivers may be more susceptible to:
- Distracted driving: Per the CDC’s data from the 2019 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, results showed that among U.S. high school students who actively drove, 39% used their phones while driving. This includes texting and emailing.
- Inexperience: Teenage drivers are more likely than older drivers to be unable to recognize and analyze dangerous situations. They are also more likely than adults to make errors during critical decisions, which can lead to severe crashes.
- Speeding: Teenagers are more likely to speed and allow shorter headways than adults. Headways is the distance from the front of one vehicle to the rear of the next. The CDC states that “In 2019, 31% of male drivers aged 15–20 years and 17% of female drivers aged 15–20 years who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding.”
- Drug/Substance abuse: The CDC survey also showed that in 2017, 13% of U.S. high school students drove under the influence of marijuana. The risk for car accidents seems to be higher when driving after using both marijuana and alcohol in comparison to only using one or the other before driving. Marijuana has negative effects on judgment, motor coordination, decision-making, and reaction time and should not be used before or during driving a vehicle. Drug and alcohol abuse are already common among adult truck drivers, and so bringing teenagers who are already at risk for abusing or misusing drugs and alcohol is a terrible idea.
What are the dangers of commercial truck driving?
Large commercial trucks such as 18-wheelers are an already dangerous part of driving, especially on the highways with higher speed limits. If you’re in a smaller vehicle, it’s a smart idea to steer clear of having to drive around these enormous vehicles. Due to their size, weight, and dimensions, an accident with one of these commercial trucks will likely lead to severe injuries.
Crashes involving trucks generally cause more fatalities and catastrophic injuries more so than smaller automobile accidents because the car takes the majority of the impact when the larger truck and the car collide. An 18-wheeler can “crush a passenger vehicle, or knock it into a median, another car, or guardrail without even realizing it.”
For this reason, trucker negligence is a huge risk to the drivers around them. Truck drivers need to be especially cautious regarding:
- Vehicles entering and exiting blind spots
- Cargo loading, to ensure nothing spills
- Changes in road gradients, which can make it more difficult to slow down or stop
- Tighter turns, as the trailer can swing out and hit other cars OR get stuck
- Tire pressure and condition, as a blowout can cause the tire to fly out and hit a driver, or cause the truck to skid
Driving an 18-wheeler is nothing like driving a smaller, sedan-type vehicle. Big-rigs are unwieldy, large, and difficult to maneuver with even bigger blind spots. There’s a reason why you need a special license to drive a commercial vehicle, and why interstate trucking has been restricted to older, more experienced drivers for so long. We have no doubt that today’s young drivers will one day be ready to take the wheel in long-haul trucking, but right now, the risks just seem too great.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, then you know very well how dangerous these vehicles are. In the coming months, you may be in an accident with a truck that has a driver that is only eighteen years old, and if that happens, you will need a lawyer. If your child is in an accident while driving a commercial truck, again it is a smart idea to get a lawyer. We at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys are here to help. Call 816-471-5111 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our office in Kansas City, MO. We also maintain offices in Lee’s Summit, Parkville, and St. Joseph, MO and in Olathe and Overland Park, KS.
Kansas City personal injury attorney James Roswold of Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys handles cases dealing with victims of personal injury, medical negligence, wrongful death, workers compensation, nursing home negligence, premises liability, product liability, car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases.