Broderick Law Firm, LLC

Is the Truck Driver Shortage Making the Roads More Dangerous?


If you watch the news or read it online, you probably know that the U.S. trucking industry is short-handed. The problem isn’t new, and the shortage actually shrunk a little bit in 2022. But, we seem to be nowhere near a solution. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry was short about 78,000 drivers in late 2022. And, projections suggest the gap is going to get bigger.

ATA estimates that nearly one million drivers will be needed just to replace those leaving the industry or retiring between 2021 and 2031. Industry growth may increase that demand by about 200,000. That could mean the shortage will approximately double by 2031.

Driver pay has been increasing across the past few years, but that’s not enough to solve the problem–especially since some drivers are choosing to drive less now that they’re better compensated.

What Do Truck Driver Shortages Mean for Massachusetts Consumers?

Most of the news coverage of the trucker shortage revolves around the impact on the supply chain. That’s a serious issue, and one most of us have been personally impacted by at one time or another. Perhaps you went to the grocery store and found the shelves half-empty, or couldn’t find the product you went looking for in any brand. Maybe you had trouble getting the prescription medication you depend on. Or, perhaps you experienced friction you might never have connected to the truck driver shortage, such as delays in mail delivery.


Higher transportation costs, resulting from a combination of higher gas prices, higher truck driver pay, the need for more overtime hours, inefficiencies caused by trucks sitting idle and the logistics of shipping without adequate staff, and other variables also played a role in the rising cost of consumer goods.

These disruptions will come as no surprise when you consider that truckers move more than 70% of the freight traveling around the United States. But, there’s another cost that gets less attention: how the shortage of truck drivers may be impacting road safety.

The Trucker Shortage and Commercial Trucking Accidents

In 2011, the trucking industry was short about 10,000 drivers. That year, there were 3,686 truck accident fatalities in the United States. By 2019, the shortage had swelled to about 60,000 drivers–and annual fatalities had crossed the 5,000 mark. That’s an increase of nearly 36% in eight years.

Of course, the trucker shortage is far from the only variable. Other traffic deaths also increased across the same time period. However, truck accident fatalities made up an increased percentage of total traffic-related deaths in 2022. And, there are several ways the driver shortage may be impacting road safety. For example:

  • Understaffing in the industry means drivers may be asked to make more deliveries and work longer hours, increasing the risk of fatigue and distraction on the road
  • Reliance on less experienced drivers can increase risks on the road, especially when those drivers are operating large, heavy vehicles that are more difficult to maneuver and cause more damage when they are involved in a collision
  • The shortage incentivizes use of longer trailers and double trailers (even triple in some states, though Massachusetts doesn’t allow triple trailers)
  • The need to do more with less means a greater need to make use of all available space–but heavier trucks take longer to stop and do more damage when they are involved in collisions

These are just some of the ways that the current (and anticipated ongoing) shortage of truck drivers may be contributing to the increase in truck accident fatalities and the increased share of overall traffic fatalities.

Truck Accidents and Negligence

The vast majority of people seriously injured and killed in large truck accidents are people outside the truck–mostly drivers and passengers in other vehicles involved in the crash. When you’re sharing the road with large trucks, be sure to:

  • Keep a safe distance between you and a commercial truck, whether you are following the truck or the truck is behind you
  • If you’re following the truck, make sure to stay far enough back that you can clearly see the vehicles side mirrors
  • Take into account the much larger turning radius of a large truck
  • Avoid cutting into a lane in front of a truck, slowing unexpectedly, or taking other action that might require the truck driver to adapt–large vehicles are slower to stop and more difficult to maneuver

If you’ve been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, liability may be complicated. That’s because there are multiple possible responsible parties, depending on who owns the truck, whether vehicle maintenance or faulty parts played a role, who loaded the truck, whether the driver was an employee or contractor, whether the driver was on the job at the time of the collision, and other factors. Gathering evidence can also be more complicated, since one or more responsible parties may be out of state. And, your case may be impacted by a mix of state law and federal regulations.

Because truck accident cases are unique in these and other ways, it’s important to work with an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer like Kevin P. Broderick. To schedule a free consultation and learn more about your rights and options, call 978-459-3805 or fill out the contact form on this site.

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The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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