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Truck companies face driver shortages

Commercial trucks play an important role in West Virginia's economy. From logging and coal trucks to those that carry food and other consumer goods, trucks move the supplies that people need on a daily basis. The truck industry employs millions of people throughout the country, but no job within the industry is more crucial than that of the truck driver.

An experienced and responsible truck driver knows how to move cargo long distances while complying with all state and federal regulations. Likewise, these drivers understand the importance of safety, and how devastating a truck accident can be. But, a big shortage of those experienced truck drivers may soon be on the horizon.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the industry has been fighting with truck driver shortages for the past 15 years, but the worst is yet to come. As of 2014, the ATA data shows that the trucking industry had a shortage of 38,000 drivers. But the ATA also estimates that this shortage will grow to 48,000 by the end of this year, and up to a whopping 175,000 by the year 2024.

The ATA estimates that during the next decade, the industry will need to hire as many as 890,000 new truck drivers. Roughly 45 percent of those new drivers will be needed to replace retiring drivers. Furthermore, industry growth is another major factor for the truck driver shortage -- it will require about 33 percent of the new hires needed.

The fact that the truck industry will need to hire so many new drivers is a good thing because it means that the economy is supporting a robust trucking industry, and that jobs will be available for people in need. On the other hand, driving a big rig truck that is loaded with goods requires extensive training and experience. Truck companies should not plug their shortages of drivers by taking a chance on an unqualified truck driver.

In West Virginia, trucks accidents are problem enough as it is. Hundreds of thousands of new and inexperienced truck drivers could make accidents an even bigger problem. Although many truck companies will likely take appropriate safety and training precautions before sending new drivers on the road, some will undoubtedly be tempted to cut corners. Trucking is important, but it can't come at the price of safety.

Source: American Trucking Associations, "Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015," Bob Costello and Rod Suarez, Accessed Oct. 27, 2015

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