A severe shortage of truck drivers in the United States is increasing dangers for drivers and threatening to raise insurance rates. The same dilemma is also creating an opportunity for Uber and its self-driving truck subsidiary Otto.
Around 10% of the professional truck drivers in the United States are over 65 years old, CBS News discovered. CBS’s investigation found that crashes involving older truck and bus drivers increased by 19% over the past three years.
Some people in their 90s are still driving big-rigs for a living, CBS found. The number of older truck drivers is increasing because of the dramatic trucker shortage in the United States. Some experts estimate that the country is short of 65,000 drivers and the situation is getting worse.
The shortage is so bad that some truck driving schools are taking students in their 70s. One reason why the industry recruits older people is that they are more likely to perform the monotonous and boring tasks needed for driving a truck. Younger people raised on video games are less likely to put up with the sheer boredom of cruising down the Interstate all day.
The Danger to Your Insurance Rates
The increase in older truck drivers might mean more fatal crashes and more deaths on the roads. Fatal traffic accidents are on the United States, the number of traffic deaths in the first half of 2016, was 9% higher than in the same period in 2015, the National Safety Council reported.
The rate of increase is even higher in some states including Florida where the number of fatal accidents jumped by 43% in just one year, according to the NSC. It is not clear how many of those accidents involved big trucks but some may have.
Some car-insurance companies including Allstate have responded to this development by increasing insurance rates by 25% in certain areas. Progressive which is struggling with falling revenues even proposed offering higher-insurance rates for older drivers in Maine.
Older truck drivers were not mentioned in these plans to raise rates but they might be having an effect. A major problem is that one big rig can do far more damage than a car which raises everybody’s insurance.
An Opportunity for Uber
All this creates an opportunity for Uber’s subsidiary Otto which tested a self-driving semi-tractor in Colorado in October. The Volvo semi made a 120 mile run down 1-25 between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs and passed right through a major city.
The amazing thing about that delivery for Anheuser-Busch was that the driver, Walter Martin, spent most of his time lounging in the back of the cab rather than driving. If that can be duplicated widely Otto should find lots of customers.
Creating a truck that would allow Millennials to play video games; or watch The Walking Dead, while operating a big-rig might tempt some of them to get behind the wheel. Such technology might also help older drivers whose reflexes are not as fast.
There will certainly be pressure to put self-driving trucks on the road because of the trucker shortage. What remains to be seen is how this technology will affect auto insurance rates.