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Report: Elderly Truck Drivers May Heighten Crash Risk on Highways

There simply aren’t enough truck drivers in the U.S. to meet the increasing demands of the transportation and shipping industry. By some accounts, there is a shortage of nearly 50,000 drivers. In an attempt to fill the void, many trucking companies are actively recruiting retirees.¬†trucking

At first glance, this seems like a great solution, particularly as Baby Boomers are living longer than in generations’ past and have ample knowledge and experience in a wide range of fields. The problem is that driving – particularly operation of a big rig – requires a certain degree of physical and mental stamina that may be challenging to those over a certain age. Older drivers may struggle with worsening vision (particularly at night), reduced reflexes, waning hearing and in some cases cognitive decline. All of these could prove disastrous for a trucker.

CBS News launched a study that looked at truck accidents involving drivers over the age of 65. What they found was that between 2013 and 2015, more than 6,630 trucking accidents were caused by truck drivers who were at or past the retirement age. It should be noted that this figure only tallied crash reports from 12 states, so the actual number is much, much higher. The study also showed that in the last couple years, the percentage of crashes involving drivers in their 70s and older spiked by nearly 20 percent. That includes both commercial truck and bus drivers, and should be cause for concern and further analysis. 

The analysis by CBS, which took five months to complete, indicates drivers in this cohort currently make up 10 percent of all truckers.

Here in Florida, there were 1,264 trucking accidents among drivers over the age of 70 between 2013 and 2015. Of that figure, most – 68 percent – involved truck and bus drivers between the ages of 70 and 74.

Several older drivers interviewed by CBS fire back against the notion that they are dangerous drivers. It’s the younger operators, they say, who are the most reckless. Younger drivers are more willing to take chances, have less of an understanding of the rig and are more likely to press their luck and speed or hours of operation laws if they are pressed for time (as commercial drivers often are).

Trucking companies say there is nothing wrong with recruiting and training older drivers. In fact, they noted, it’s illegal to discriminate against persons over the age of 65, and there is no federal law that requires older drivers to undergo more rigorous testing or be under certain restrictions. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts the age at which commercial airline pilots are allowed to fly: 65. It should be noted that industry also is facing a significant shortage.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the commercial trucking industry, said it has launched its own study into whether older truckers may increase the risk of trucking accidents, but no conclusions have yet been reached.

Florida has more overall senior driver fatalities than any other states, according to one study by TRIP, a national transportation research group. In a single year, there were 271 seniors in this state who died in car accidents and 503 overall fatalities that involved at least one senior driver.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Are older commercial truck drivers causing more danger on nation’s highways? Staff Report, CBS News

More Blog Entries:

Poor Road Design Alleged in Car Accident Lawsuit, Dec. 29, 2016, Orlando Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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