I read this recent USA Today article in total disbelief. The article talks about the shortage of truck drivers, and the industry’s attempts at shifting the problem onto that yucky little issue called “safety.”
Apparently, when the federal government actually began posting safety ratings, the industry started to think it might be wise to consider, dare I say it, a safe driving history as a requirement to get a job as a truck driver. Rosalyn Wilson, a senior business analyst of a consulting firm called Delcan, says that truck drivers must be at least 21. This, of course, leads many 18-year-old high school graduates who might consider trucking to instead pursue plumbing or other trades. Oh no, say it’s not true! Perhaps it’s a good thing that an 18 year old might not be considered “ripe” enough to take a loaded 70,000lb rig across the country without a few more years of driving experience under his or her belt.
I have also seen this mentality in the pharmaceutical industry. Hiring cheap, untrained labor does not work in every industry. Ms. Wilson also says that many unemployed construction and factory workers can’t afford the $4,000 to $6,000 cost of a six-week driver-training course. When I first started working at Allstate, they hired me and then paid for my training. The novel concept of investing in an employee apparently is lost on an industry who is now also upset that the Federal Government is limiting the number of hours truck drivers can drive in any given period of time.
It’s both sad and amusing how this article does not mention the 500,000 trucking accidents that occur every year in the United States. Of these 500,000 trucking accidents, approximately 5,000 result in fatalities. In fact, one out of every eight traffic fatalities involves a trucking collision. Oh, and by the way, trucking revenues totaled $610 billion last year and revenues are estimated to nearly double by 2015. It is amazing how we can put a man on the moon, and yet the trucking industry is resigned to believing that they are simply unable to make our trucking system safe.
I am not a huge fan of regulation, but in this case, I know it’s needed. I have seen firsthand the death and destruction caused by poorly maintained trucks driven by drivers with horrible driving records, or worse yet, impaired in order to stay awake longer to make their “goals.” Once again, fast and cheap might be great for the occasional burger or my weekend frisbee and disposable cooler, but one size (or speed) does not fit all. I don’t want my heart surgery fast and cheap. I don’t want a nuclear submarine to be built fast and cheap. And truthfully, I don’t want the trucks on our nation’s highways to be fast, cheap, and unsafe.
Hopefully the next time this type of self-serving diatribe is rolled out by the trucking industry and their cronies, we will see journalistic efforts that at least attempt to portray the other side of the story. Of course, writing about the human toll is never as easy as writing from the glib perspective of a large industry with its eyes’ on profit.