The trucking industry is becoming an increasingly competitive place to work. The North American Free Trade Agreement has created more opportunities for truckers throughout North America, and deregulation in interstate trucking has created competition in pricing and deadlines.
On some level, competition is essential in a market economy. As it relates to the trucking industry, however, competition can lead to dangers for travelers and truckers. In recent years, experts have raised concerns about safety and compliance in the industry.
One of the largest areas in which competition has become a safety concern is in the efficient delivery of goods. When it comes to transportation of goods, efficiency is synonymous with speed. The need to deliver goods quickly has become a safety issue, as big rig operators are more likely to drive above the posted speed limit or faster than they should in inclement weather. Speeding plays a large role in commercial vehicle accidents, and truckers shouldn’t feel pressure from deadlines that are too tight.
To make matters worse, the trucking industry now faces a shortage of qualified drivers. Employers are offering sign-up bonuses and better pay to those looking for a long-haul job. The shortage especially applies to interstate trucking, as these long trips don’t suit a family lifestyle. Even though companies offer powerful incentives to hire more commercial vehicle operators, the turnover rate for these jobs is high. If a long-haul driver on the road lacks experience and proper training it can create a dangerous scenario.
Driver fatigue plays a large role in accidents involving commercial motor vehicles. Trucking companies can theoretically gain an advantage by keeping drivers on the road longer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets strict guidelines for driver hours, which they must keep recorded in log books.
Currently, a driver must take breaks throughout a shift and cannot drive for more than 14 hours in a shift. It’s easy to see how breaking these regulations could lead to accidents for the sake of meeting a deadline.
Drivers also combat fatigue by turning to illicit or over-the-counter substances. These substances, like caffeine pills, energy drinks, and even cocaine and methamphetamine, lead to energy crashes that compound fatigue. They also have disastrous consequences when it comes to roadway safety.
In sum, the deregulation of the trucking industry has had unintended consequences – namely, an increasingly competitive landscape causing trucking companies to value profit over safety. Under pressure from their employers, truckers might drive too fast for prevailing conditions or even neglect their log books to gain a competitive edge. A trucker shortage compounds the problem, as companies struggle to retain and hire experienced drivers. Interstate commercial vehicle operators may lack the skill set or training to assure safety on our roadways.
Drivers must use caution when driving, but especially when sharing the road with commercial motor vehicles. Increased competition has had a negative effect on public safety.