Legal Guide

New Trucker Training Standards Already Have a Serious Problem

After decades of development, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally released a nationwide set of trucker training standards this year. Unfortunately, there's already a major problem with them.

For context, the trucking industry is facing two serious crises right now.

One problem is rising highway fatalities. Between 2010 and 2020, there was a 30% increase in fatalities involving large trucks—1,200 more lives lost than in the previous decade. Turnover in the trucking industry has been high for some time, which has necessitated standardized training for inexperienced drivers. Safety advocates (including the Houston personal injury lawyers at Arnold & Itkin) have called for trucking companies to invest in more training to prevent truck accidents, prevent trucker injuries, and make our highways safer.

The other problem is the supply chain crisis.

The trucking industry is desperate to get more drivers behind the wheel, but as we mentioned, turnover is high. This year, trucking companies won a major victory when the Biden administration lowered the minimum age for an interstate trucker from 21 to 18. The influx of truckers will be held to the new trucker training standards, which brings us back to their core flaw: there's no minimum requirement for behind-the-wheel training.

The minimum requirements for an interstate truck driver include:

  • A medical exam
  • A multiple-choice test
  • A driving test

It should be noted that the driving test is administered by commercial driving schools paid for by the drivers themselves. None of these requirements includes any amount of behind-the-wheel training, even though drivers as young as 18 would be put behind the wheel of an 80,000 lb. rig. As Time Magazine pointed out last month, even barbers need 1,000 hours of job training before they get a license. A driving test in a controlled environment is no substitute for training in real-life situations.

The Fatality Crisis Driven by Poor Pay Model?

The ten-year spike in trucking-related fatalities isn’t solely the fault of individual operators; the entire trucking industry is ultimately responsible. Many drivers are paid by the mile, and even then, only when they’re running a loaded rig. Drivers are incentivized to move quickly from delivery to delivery, but sometimes it simply isn’t possible to rush through the rigors of the job. Traffic, waiting for loading and unloading at various warehouses and docks, or even federally mandated rest breaks are all threats to the average trucker’s livelihood on the pay-by-mile method.

Truckers are promised a life of freedom and open road when they’re recruited by the major shipping companies, but it’s rare for a trucker to make a good living without compromising their safety or health—which ultimately threatens the safety and health of others. Shipping company policies need to be held accountable for their role in the highway fatality crisis.  

Training Is a Resource, Not a Burden

The supply chain crisis and the trucker shortage aren't reasons to ease up on training standards. If we're going to create a new generation of operators responsible for the delivery of vital goods across the country, we should make sure they're equipped and qualified for the job. Doing so would create confident operators who would experience fewer deadly accidents, and ultimately create a healthier industry. More importantly, it would spare thousands of people from suffering catastrophic injuries or the loss of a loved one.

As Houston truck accident lawyers, our job is to hold companies accountable when they fail to uphold adequate training standards. When rig operators or other motorists suffer direct harm due to a shipping company's negligent training policy, Arnold & Itkin will fight for their right to medical care, lost wages, and other damages.

No matter what.

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