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October 31, 2016 4:00 AM, EDT
Letter: Change Rules to Reduce the Driver Shortage

This letter appear in the Oct. 31 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Change Rules to Reduce The Driver Shortage

I just saw a television news story on Oct 19 about the shortage of truck drivers and that recruiting so many older drivers might not be the best idea. And when I heard them say “shortage of truck drivers,” I was surprised that it’s possible that may be true.

If the trucking companies would allow more time on the road but less time driving, there would be a heavy turnout of men and women who would train to drive and use this as an opportunity to see the country as they work — travel while working, if you will.

If the trucking industry would change a few rules about drivers bringing riders along with them for the company and support and, let’s be honest, someone to talk to, someone to keep their minds awake while they are driving and keep them from falling asleep behind the wheel, it beats texting or watching TV while driving.

Make it mandatory that any guest must go through three days of training in emergency and basic truck functions and operation so they are helpful in case of emergencies. I understand that a friend or relative is not allowed to ride in most cases due to insurance coverage issues. There has to be something that can be done about that as well.

I would rather have a large truck on the road next to me and my family in which the driver is awake and has an extra pair of eyes and the stimulation of human contact on the long journey to help keep the driver alert and awake. That rider can help with changing lanes, watching out for other drivers, assisting in a breakdown, and if they are licensed and trained to drive, they can take over, take turns when the main driver is too tired or becomes sick, or worse, has a medical emergency behind the wheel.

With two drivers, the truck really does not have to stop. Gaining drive time with two drivers would allow them to not rush to meet delivery deadlines — which should be like the Postal Service, delivering packages in two to three days.

With trucking, they say to the drivers, it’s a rush, it’s a contest, it’s a madness to get that load to the destination fast!

Where are they going in such a hurry?

If they have the chance to calmly deliver, there would be fewer accidents that are due to rushing drivers who are worried they are behind schedule. That is a danger right there.

In my opinion, it should almost be mandatory for a ride-along to be present, with one main driver in charge so no egos are stepped on, which would be the main problem for those drivers who are stubborn.

There are lots of potential drivers, young and vibrant, out there, but they say they would never drive a truck because it’s too much driving alone, it’s scary to drive alone, it’s boring to drive alone and they would fall asleep at the wheel. A trained companion, whether they drive or not, can ease the stress of a driver who may be otherwise stressed out.

There are drivers all over the country, and you just have to go out and get them. Have recruiters visit high schools and colleges and the welfare and unemployment offices and so many other places where men and women are looking for an exciting job with someone to share the experience with — their sidekick, if you will.

I know a husband and wife who are both truck drivers, and they did all their driving together.

They had the best life ever and have no regrets and loved every minute of it all — even the frustrating times. Why? Because they had each other to ease the pain.

Change the rules of the industry, and your drivers will come.

Loreena Beltran

Spokane, Washington