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Older truckers in the workforce may pose extra hazards

When you think of commercial truck drivers, what image comes to mind? Do you picture young, strong heroes of the highway or middle-aged, seasoned road cowboys with a few hundred thousand miles crisscrossing the United States under their big belt buckles?

Chances are that the first demographic group you thought of was not the geriatric set -- senior citizens well over 65 and into their 70s, 80s or even 90s. However, 10 percent of those big rig drivers with active commercial driver's licenses are older than 65.

The reason for that is simple supply and demand. The trucking industry is struggling to cope with a major shortage of qualified drivers. This deficit has caused trucking companies to aggressively recruit drivers from the retiree set. Due to economic instability, senior citizens are eager to supplement meager or non-existent pensions, and are responding in droves.

How dangerous is it for these elderly drivers to be behind the wheel of tons of steel hurtling down the nation's highways? Some families are already experiencing grief and loss as a result.

A family of four died on the way to St. Louis on Interstate 44 when a 76-year-old trucker drove his semi-truck over three passenger vehicles, killing a total of 10 people.

A Newark bus driver, age 70, killed two people on another metro bus when he slammed into it last summer. Less than a week later, a stone hauler in New York, 74, drove his big rig into stopped traffic in a Binghamton construction site, injuring 10.

CBS News analyzed three years' worth of crash data, discovering a 19 percent rise in collisions with truck drivers who are 70- 80- and even 90-plus years old. In the years between 2013 and 2015, at least 6,636 collisions occurred in 12 states where senior drivers with commercial drivers licenses were involved.

Should there be more oversight? These companies are not breaking any laws. In fact, to discriminate based on age would be a breach of the law. Under current laws, if the senior driver can pass the physical and otherwise meet the qualifications, they are cleared to drive.

If you have been injured in an accident with an elderly driver of a commercial truck, you may want to pursue your options for compensation, should they be found at fault.

Source: WINK News, "Are older commercial truck drivers causing more danger on nation’s highways?," accessed Nov. 24, 2016

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