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Does lower trucker numbers mean higher truck accident risk?

West Virginia and the rest of the states depend mightily on the ribbons of concrete and asphalt that knit our communities together. They are part of the critical infrastructure that gets products from farm, mine and factory to the consumers who provide 70 percent of the nation's economic energy.

The roads wouldn't be of much commercial value without the big tractor-trailers to haul the goods. But with big rigs moving at high speeds come increased risks of serious truck accidents. And recent news suggests that there may be another factor feeding an increased risk of truck accidents.

According to industry sources, the nation is in the midst of a truck driver shortage. Some estimate that there is a national shortfall of 500,000, with a need for 30,000 over-the-road haulers right now.

While the carrier companies who employ those truckers suggest the problem isn't as great as some make it out to be, they do agree there is a need. The reasons they give for the shortage are several. There's the usual issue of the trucker lifestyle, which can make some severe and unattractive demands on practitioners. But there are also a lot of drivers taking retirement and fewer drivers coming up from below to fill the void.

While this perhaps represents an opportunity on one level, it represents a potential threat on another. As the economy begins to pick up, the need to haul goods is going to rise. Fewer drivers means the existing force of professionals has to deal with the demand and that could press some to push the envelope of the rules they are supposed to abide by for their safety and the safety of others on the road.

And while carrier companies would never admit to it, chances are some are pressing drivers to the limits, which raises danger levels.

Regardless of the pressures they face, truckers operating in West Virginia have a responsibility to maintain safety for the good of all. If they don't meet that obligation and an accident results in serious injury or death, those who become victims have the right to hold the drivers, operators and shippers accountable. That's best done with experienced legal counsel.

Source: KPTM-TV, "Truck Companies Looking for Drivers," Curt Casper, Aug. 16, 2012

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