It is unfair and even unlawful to say that one’s age and health has an impact on his or her ability to perform a job well. It is also unlawful to even suggest that a person’s age and health should come into play during the hiring process.

Yet, as the risk of a trucking accident goes up with the driver’s age and/or decline in health, federal and local governments begin to wonder, should they implement more aggressive and, yes, controversial regulations? The data points toward yes.

Drivers’ age and accident risk

According to a CBS News report, America’s trucking industry faces a driver shortage. Though the trucking industry needs approximately 48,000 drivers to move 70% of the nation’s goods, there just are not enough hands on deck to do the job. To meet the 48,000-driver quota, trucking companies call on retirees. As a result, drivers aged 65-years or older make up approximately 10% of truck drivers in the U.S. The increase in older drivers correlates with another disturbing trend, and that is an increase in catastrophic truck accidents.

Between 2013 and 2015, there were 6,636 accidents involving elderly drivers in just 12 states alone. During that time, there was a 19% increase in accidents that involved bus or truck drivers who ranged in age from in their 70s into their 90s.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration attributes this to decreased reaction time and stamina in elderly individuals. Yet, though it acknowledges the issue, the NHTSA has yet to implement regular skills tests to older drivers for fear of becoming subject to political backlash.

Drivers’ health and accident risk

A ScienceDaily report reveals findings from a University of Utah School of Medicine study that suggests drivers’ health may play a role in commercial trucking accidents. What the data says is that drivers with poor health demonstrate an increased crash risk, including the risk for preventable accidents.

The findings, which are the result of a thorough examination of over 49,000 medical records of commercial drivers, show that 34% of all drivers have signs of at least one major medical condition that research proves decreases a person’s driving performance. Those include low back pain, heart disease and diabetes.

To further support the theory that health affects driving performance, the researchers matched each driver’s medical history to his or her driving record. Doing so showed them that drivers with at least three of the identified medical conditions were more likely to have been involved in a crash than their healthier counterparts.