Older truck drivers see increase in crashes

In Louisiana and across the country, accidents involving commercial trucks can be deadly. With heavy trucks traveling at high speeds, it might be a surprise to learn that big rig drivers are growing steadily older, making some worry about how safe that makes the roads.

A report by CBS News found that 10 percent of all commercial truck drivers are older than 65 years old, and with a shortage of drivers to haul goods across the country, many companies are focusing their recruiting efforts on this demographic. While federal anti-discrimination laws protect people on the basis of age, there are exceptions within the transportation industry: commercial pilots have to retire at age 65, despite a shortage of labor. In fact, accidents involving truck drivers over the age of 70 (including some drivers in their 90s) have increased nearly 20 percent. AN analysis of data from 12 states between 2013 and 2015 found that at least 6,636 accidents took place with drivers in the highest age bracket. In 2015, Alabama had 258 accidents with truck drivers over age 70: 13 crashes had drivers between 80 and 89 years old and one accident had a driver aged 90 or older.

Drivers do have to pass a physical in order to be able to work for a trucking company, but some have concerns that those are not stringent enough. As the Huffington Post reports, for example, there has been a political back-and-forth over screening drivers for sleep apnea, which undiagnosed can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommended screening obese drivers for sleep apnea in 2012, but after pushback in the industry, the FMCSA withdrew their proposal to update guidelines, despite studies showing that a driver with sleep apnea is five times more likely to get in an accident.

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