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Are fatal truck accidents the new normal? p2

Continued from our last post.

The number of fatal tractor-trailer accidents in the U.S. has been increasing since 2009. CNBC suggests that the loss of life is the cost of doing business — more goods and materials are moving as the country recovers from the recession, and both the industry and government regulators are trying to avoid any action that could impede that growth. In some cases, unfortunately, that inaction translates into neither following nor enforcing safety guidelines.

For example, CNBC spotlights one terrible accident that occurred when a semi slammed into a minivan that had slowed for traffic. Five people died, one of them the truck driver. Investigators discovered that the driver had a string of accidents and safety warnings on his record. Yet all of those red flags, including the driver’s record of several rear-end crashes, did not result in the trucking company or regulators suspending him or taking him off the roads completely.

It may be that the trucking companies cannot afford to lose drivers. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry has 30,000 to 35,000 driving jobs open right now. The shortage couldn’t come at a worse time: Over the next decade or so, the ATA estimates freight tonnage could increase by as much as 23.5 percent. The industry will need to add 100,000 drivers every year to meet that growth.

Some of the shortage is the result of high turnover — as much as 92 percent for large companies, according to first quarter 2014 data. The long hours, relatively low wages and days at a time spent on the road instead of with family don’t exactly add to the job’s cachet.

What to do? We’ll get into that — and we’ll finish this up — in our next post.

Source: NBC News, “Truck Accidents Surge, But There’s No National Outcry,” Eamon Javers, July 30, 2014

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