As with almost anything, driving tends to get better with experience. The more time drivers spend on the roads, whether they drive commercial vehicles for profit or simply operate passenger vehicles for their own benefit, the better they get at navigating through the streets of Syracuse. Unfortunately, drivers have to get that experience somewhere, and often, they end up getting it on the road. Sometimes, these unqualified drivers don’t get that experience fast enough, to the detriment of other drivers.
How Do Unqualified Drivers End up on Syracuse Roads?
Of course, most people know the statistics related to inexperienced teen drivers. Between the ages of 16 and 19, for example, teen drivers face almost three times more crash risk per mile than drivers age 20 and over. Teens with passengers may face increased accident risk, and the risk goes up with every passenger you add to the car.
Most people know that they need to give teen drivers extra space and provide some accommodation for their needs. A “student driver” sticker on a vehicle, or the presence of a young driver behind the wheel, convinces many drivers to give those vehicles a little extra grace.
That same grace, however, often does not extend to truck drivers, who may pose an even greater danger on the streets of Syracuse. Unfortunately, more and more often, truck drivers without adequate experience or substantial qualifications have ended up on the roads of New York and unlike teen drivers, they may give no visible signal at all of their inexperience, save their lack of ability to safely control their vehicles.
The continuing truck driver shortages make it increasingly difficult for trucking companies to find experienced drivers.
The truck driver shortage around the country has remained apparent for years. The COVID-19 crisis threw it into even sharper relief, as businesses and manufacturers across the country suffered from a shortage of the goods and materials they needed to do business effectively. Unfortunately, the truck driver crisis remains as real as ever.
Many trucking companies have little choice but to send out drivers who do not have the necessary experience to navigate the streets of Syracuse. They may simply need to put whatever driver they can behind the wheel and hope for the best, as long as the driver has the right licensing.
On-the-job training may have decreased in many trucking companies, which may simply not have adequate manpower to let new drivers train a long time with experienced ones.
Basic CDL training may not offer enough time behind the wheel to provide drivers with enough experience to handle the challenges they may face on the road.
The average truck driver can complete a basic CDL course in just seven weeks, assuming that the driver spends five hours a day in class. Much of that time gets spent in a classroom, not out on the road. Furthermore, the FMCSA has removed requirements for a minimum number of hours behind the wheel before a driver can obtain a Class C license, which may mean that drivers have little to no experience before they actually get behind the wheel for the first time. Even when the FMCSA did issue road-time requirements, drivers could secure a CDL with as little as 30 hours of actual road experience in a big truck.
That training may not prove adequate to give drivers the experience and confidence they need to really handle driving in Syracuse, especially if they face unexpected hazards on their routes.
The Dangers Caused by Inexperienced Drivers in Syracuse
On the surface, Syracuse seems like a great place to gain some experience as a truck driver. While it has rush hours like any other city, Syracuse does not suffer from a great deal of traffic congestion, which can make it a better place for many truck drivers to learn how to navigate. However, Syracuse, like any other city, does have hazards that can raise the risk of accidents, especially when inexperienced truck drivers take to the roads.
#1. Syracuse has tight streets that can make it more difficult for big trucks to maneuver.
In some areas of Syracuse, tight streets lined with little extra space make it more difficult for big trucks to move safely into those areas. Tight streets might not allow adequate space for wider trucks, especially as they attempt to complete turns. Many truck drivers, especially those who might not yet have adequate experience, have a hard time making a right turn without going wide, especially if they struggle with the vehicle’s large blind spots.
Those tight streets can make it more difficult for the truck driver to get the space they need, which can cause an inexperienced driver to get into an accident with the car in the right lane beside them, the car in the left lane beside them, or even cars attempting to cross through traffic.
#2. Despite its relatively clear streets, Syracuse does have some areas that can cause heavier congestion
Syracuse drivers quickly learn to avoid areas like the Adams Street exit from Interstate 81 or the Landon Corners bottleneck during heavy traffic times. When the New York State Fair comes to town, it can also substantially increase traffic and congestion in those areas. Unfortunately, the increase in congestion also brings with it an increased need for goods, which means the area may see more truck traffic in addition to other types of traffic throughout the year.
Inexperienced truck drivers may have a very hard time navigating in those areas. They may not know how to avoid congested areas or how to avoid accidents in heavy traffic, especially as other drivers’ frustration increases and those drivers become more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors.
#3. Unqualified drivers may have more trouble properly inspecting their vehicles before they head out on the road.
CDL requirements, in addition to requiring a driver to pass a road and knowledge test, also mandate that a driver needs to know how to inspect a big truck before taking it out on the road. Inexperienced drivers, however, may have little experience with those inspections, which could cause them to miss potential problems that could create major hazards out on the road.
Big trucks go through a lot of parts and require a great deal of maintenance. In many cases, they need considerably more maintenance than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, an inexperienced driver may miss the presence of brake problems, a missing turn signal, or even problems with the windshield wipers that could cause issues with visibility in poor weather conditions. By the time those problems make themselves known out on the road, the driver may have little opportunity to fix them.
#4. Inexperienced truck drivers may get in trouble before they recognize a problem.
Experienced truck drivers usually become familiar with the hazards they might face out on the road and when they may need to react to them. The more time they spend on the road, the earlier they can spot potential hazards. For example, the Lake Parkway Bridge comes in at just 10 feet, nine inches tall, which does not offer adequate clearance for many big trucks. Unfortunately, several trucks slam into this bridge regularly, often because the driver fails to realize that they may have ended up in a bad spot until they get ready to pull forward.
Other drivers may have a hard time recognizing the dangers of other vehicles around them, including vehicles that may travel too close or get lost in their blind spots. They may travel at too-high rates of speed without realizing that they have lost the ability to safely control their vehicles, or they might have a hard time recognizing exactly how much room they need to stop their vehicles safely at red lights, stop signs, and intersections.
#5. Inexperienced truck drivers may seem more erratic on the road.
Syracuse drivers get used to seeing truck drivers around them. They recognize that big trucks bring necessary goods to the area and make adjustments to make it easier to adhere to traffic laws in the presence of those big trucks. However, the average Syracuse driver may also assume that the truck driver next to them has adequate experience and reasonable knowledge of how to avoid potential collisions.
Unqualified, inexperienced truck drivers may behave far differently than those drivers expect. Unqualified truck drivers may, for example, try to stop earlier at intersections because they do not know just how long it will take to bring the truck to a complete stop, especially if they have taken on a heavier load than usual. They may try to change lanes without realizing that a car already occupies that lane, especially in relatively clear traffic. They might even attempt a right turn, only to realize that they do not have adequate room only when they strike a car or pedestrian.
Other drivers may have a much harder time predicting the behavior of truck drivers who do not have considerable experience out on the road and, as a result, they may not know how to avoid collisions with them in time. Unpredictable behavior on the part of any driver can raise accident risk throughout the area.
#6. Unqualified truck drivers may not have the experience they need to drive in dangerous weather conditions.
Even if truck drivers in the Syracuse area go through considerable training behind the wheel, they may have a hard time operating in dangerous weather conditions, especially if they got most of their training on clear roads. Truck drivers who take their cargo through Syracuse may have acquired their CDL anywhere, including in areas where they may have many more clear days. Syracuse, on the other hand, has many days that include bad weather conditions.
Not only does Syracuse see an estimated 104 inches of snow each year compared to the U.S. average of 28 inches it sees, on average, just 163 sunny days per year, compared to the U.S. average of 205 sunny days. While Syracuse has a substantial infrastructure in place to help deal with snow and ice on the roads, those clearing crews cannot get everywhere at once, and truck drivers may still face more dangerous conditions than they expect as they head through the Syracuse area.
Inexperienced, unqualified drivers may have a hard time navigating through those hazardous conditions. A truck that starts to slip on the road, especially in a sharp turn, may quickly end up in a jackknife or rollover accident, which may cause substantial damage to any other vehicles around it. In a jackknife or rollover, the weight of the truck remains fully out of the driver’s control, which may lead to severe injuries for everyone around the truck.
#7. Unqualified drivers may have more trouble responding to potentially dangerous scenarios.
Part of gaining experience behind the wheel means learning how to react to potentially dangerous scenarios. Sometimes, truck drivers may end up in a tight spot and need to navigate out of it as soon as possible. Experienced truck drivers know how to navigate those difficulties and reduce the risk of injuries, or at least how to decrease the severity of the collision.
Unqualified drivers, on the other hand, may lack the skills needed to safely navigate out of that situation or to decrease the severity of the accident, which may result in much more serious injury for everyone involved in the accident. Unqualified drivers may also be more likely to panic, which could actually worsen the overall severity of the accident: slamming on the gas instead of the brake when a car pulls out in front of them, for example.
As the driver shortage continues, unqualified truck drivers on the streets of Syracuse may grow more common. If you suffer injuries in any type of truck collision, including a truck accident with an unqualified driver, an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney can help you learn more about the compensation you may deserve.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.