The U.S Energy Information Administration reports that 2012 United States oil production averaged 6.4 million barrels every day and this number is expected to increase to 7.3 million in 2013. A large portion of the increase is attributed to U.S. shale oil extraction, particularly in parts of Texas. The result of this oil boom is a shortage of qualified truckers to transport the oil.
According to an Abilene Reporter-News report, 60,000 additional trucks were needed for oil transportation in 2012. Unfortunately, the number of qualified, well-trained drivers is diminishing as baby boomers begin to reach retirement age. Baby boomers make up a large portion of the driver pool and, reportedly, there are not enough qualified young drivers to replace them as they retire.
According to the American Trucking Association, the U.S. currently has around 3 million truck drivers, but trucking companies need a lot more: 30,000 more. Competition among trucking companies for drivers is good news for truckers because it means better pay. However, it may be bad news for motorists.
To make up for the shortage of drivers, some trucking companies may pressure their drivers to work longer hours; and some drivers may try to take advantage of the opportunity to increase their earnings. This can lead to higher incidences of trucking accidents resulting from driver fatigue. According to the Transportation Department’s estimates, over 1,000 crashes per year can be attributed to driver fatigue.
There are also major concerns that the need for trucks and drivers may lead to negligent hiring and poorly maintained semis. In fact, a recent three-day Texas Department of Public Safety inspection examined over 9,200 vehicles with disturbing results: 21 percent of the inspected vehicles had safety violations severe enough to warrant the trucks be removed from service. Furthermore, 248 drivers were not compliant with federal and state laws and were therefore removed from service.
Semi safety violations included brake problems and defective lighting, among others. Driver infractions of trucking regulations included exceeding hours of service and improperly maintained logs. Unfortunately, any of these violations and infractions could have resulted in a potentially lethal trucking accident.