Today’s New York Times reports that a growing shortage of qualified over the road truck drivers is leading cokmpanies to offer generous 401(k), stock option and health care packages to new recruits and cash bonuses and prizes to drivers who refer viable candidates. To compete with other companies for experienced drivers, some are outfitting more of their cabs with satellite radio and television and introducing policies to allow drivers to bring pets and spouses on the road. Schneider holds “driver recognition days” every few months at regional repair shops, featuring Elvis impersonators, free barbecue and raffles for motorcycles and iPods. Part of the problem is that trucking competes with construction work for the same labor pool, and construction allows workers to be at home with their families, bearing less stress, rather than being away for a week or more at a time under difficult time pressure. In 2004, according to the U. S. Department of Labor, the average annual pay for a truck driver was $34,920, compared with $37,890 for a construction worker. The driver shortfall is expected to worsen in coming years since about 219,000 of the country’s 1.3 million long-haul truckers are over 55 and are likely to retire in the next 10 years. To meet the growing need, some carriers are turning to new sources of labor like women, retirees and especially Hispanics. The number of truck drivers who are not white males increased to 30 percent in 2004, up from 26.6 percent in 2001. Hispanics now account for 15 percent of all truck drivers, up from 12 percent during the same period, federal records show. The article reports on efforts to attract husband-wife driver teams.
The article does not mention the effect of all these factors on public safety. A shortage of qualified drivers leads some companies to scrape the bottom of the barrel, and the pressures of the job tempt drivers to break the safety rules. The result is too often dead and maimed people on the highways.

The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).