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The effect of older truck drivers on accident rates

With people living longer and often struggling to make ends meet in retirement, a number of Americans are returning to their previous professions or entering new lines of work. This includes trucking.

About 10 percent of commercial vehicle drivers (of both trucks and buses) are over 65 years old. Many of those are well above that age -- into their 80s and 90s. Trucking companies and driving schools are recruiting older drivers seeking extra income and good benefits as they cope with a shortage of commercial drivers.

With this increase in older drivers come legitimate safety concerns. Under the law, potential drivers can't be denied employment due to age. However, it's well documented that older drivers often have slowed reaction times. Many lack the stamina needed for long-haul trips. Those safety concerns are borne out in crash data, which shows that accidents involving commercial truck drivers in their 70s and older rose almost 20 percent in the last three years.

While in some states -- although Mississippi isn't one of them -- older drivers have to renew their driver's licenses more frequently once they reach a specified age, there's no federal regulation requiring regular testing for older commercial vehicle drivers. According to an executive with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, such testing "can result in a lot of political backlash."

An official with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, says that while the agency is studying the trend in older drivers, it is "not quite at the point yet where we are ready to say one way or another if there needs to be a change in driver rules."

Without a change in the rules, trucking companies are unlikely to impose them on themselves. They could cut back on their supply of drivers and potentially open them up to discrimination lawsuits. Therefore, as drivers, all we can do is exercise extra caution around commercial vehicles, no matter who is driving them, and take legal action against all responsible individuals and companies if an accident is caused by a commercial driver.

Source: CBS News, "Are older commercial truck drivers causing more danger on nation's highways?," Oct. 18, 2016

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