In recent years there has been a rise in older commercial truck drivers.
As a result of the downturn in the economy, individuals are working well past the conventional retirement age of 65. According to a five-month investigation by CBS News, drivers more than 65 years old now make up 10% of commercial vehicle operators in the United States. Analysis of certain crash data reveals a 19% increase in accidents involving commercial truck and bus drivers in their 70s, 80s, and even in their 90s over the last three years. All in all, more than 6,600 accidents involving elderly drivers took place in the twelve states reviewed.
While the severity of the accidents vary, some have been devastating. In one crash, a semi-truck rolled on top of three cars, killing ten people—four of them members of the same family. The driver was 76 years old. Another incident involved a truck driven by a 74-year-old that crashed into a construction zone in New York State, where 10 people were injured.
Why Are Elderly Drivers More Likely to Cause Accidents?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has known since the 1990s that reaction time and stamina often become compromised with age.
So what do we do about it?
Well, we at Holland & Usry have talked before about what can be done to promote safer driving by commercial drivers. Unfortunately, it appears regulation at the federal level is the only viable option; the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to regulate interstate commerce.
We recognize that more regulation may increase costs to business and therefore work against everyone’s economic interests. However, when it comes to people’s safety, we choose people over profits. The fact is that trucking is big business. Companies are making a lot of money. These big businesses are not going to voluntarily impose more stringent requirements on their drivers, because that will cost them drivers and ultimately money.
Finding the Right Balance
We must also as a society protect our individuals against discrimination, such as ageism. Not all older truck drivers lose their skills, and our policies shouldn’t make assumptions that age always means infirmity.
Perhaps the thing to do would be for Congress to implement laws that require more detailed testing of individual commercial drivers over a certain age, rather than putting a cut-off age in place. This way, older drivers in top shape can still drive, but only after they demonstrate that they have the stamina and reaction time required to drive tractor-trailers. And because health can decline quickly in old age, this demonstration of one’s abilities would have to occur at regular intervals, such as yearly.
Hopefully a balance can be found between the two legitimate interests: keeping roads safe while allowing those who want to drive and physically can drive, the opportunity to earn a living.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a trucking accident, please contact the lawyers of Holland & Usry at 864-582-0416 or toll-free at 877-230-1841 for your free, confidential consultation.