Road safety is a top concern among truck drivers.

Truck drivers led all occupations in workplace fatalities in 2015.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the most workplace fatalities of all occupations in 2015. In total, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had 745 fatal work injuries during the year. Roadway fatalities were up 9 percent in 2015 over 2014 to 1,264 fatal work injuries, and 629 of these fatalities involved a semi, tractor-trailer or tanker truck, the report states. The number of workplace fatalities in 2015 was the highest since 2008.

The full report can be seen here.

NHTSA report shows an increase in truck-related fatalities in 2015

Percentage change in estimated fatalities in 2015 compared to 2014.

NHTSA truck fatalities map

“We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Trucking fatalities

NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said the increased vehicles miles in 2015 is only part of the equation.

“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” Rosekind said. “But that only explains part of the increase. 94% of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior while promoting vehicle technology that not only protects people in crashes but helps prevent crashes in the first place.”

Crash study data from 2005-2015 by the FMCSA reveals a sobering increase in fatal crashes among large trucks.

Large Trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes:

In 2015, 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, an 8-percent increase from 2014. Although the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 26 percent from its low of 3,432 in 2009, the 2015 number is still 18 percent lower than the 21st-century peak of 5,231 in 2005.

◆ The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2005 and 2009 decreased by 34-percent,

◆ The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2009 and 2015 increased by 20 percent.

◆ The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses from 2014 to 2015, increased by 5 percent.

Large trucks and buses involved in non-fatal, injury crashes:

◆ The number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses decreased steadily from 89,000 in 2005 to 60,000 in 2009 (a decline of 33 percent). This decline was followed by an increase of 62 percent from 60,000 in 2009 to 97,000 in 2015.

One year Summary (from 2014 to 2015):

  •  The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 8 percent, from 3,749 to 4,050.
  •  The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 88,000 to 87,000.
  •  The number of large trucks involved in property damage only crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 346,000 to 342,000.

 

Large Truck Crashes

◆ Of the approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2015, there were 3,598 (1 percent) fatal crashes and 83,000 (20 percent) injury crashes.
◆ The majority (64 percent) of fatal large truck crashes involved two vehicles.
◆ Approximately 60 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads and 25 percent on rural or urban Interstate highways.
◆ Thirty-five percent of all fatal crashes, 21 percent of all injury crashes, and 19 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am).
◆ The vast majority of fatal crashes (83 percent) and nonfatal crashes (89 percent) involving large trucks occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
◆ Collision with a vehicle in transport was the first harmful event (the first event during a crash that resulted in injury or property damage) in 74 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks, 84 percent of injury crashes involving large trucks, and 78 percent of property damage only crashes involving large trucks.
◆ In 2015, 27 percent of work zone fatal crashes and 11 percent of work zone injury crashes involved at least one large truck.
◆ There were 11.2 fatal large truck crashes per million people in the United States in 2015, a 6-percent increase from 2010.
◆ In 2015, on average, there were 1.13 fatalities in fatal crashes involving large trucks. In 90 percent of those crashes, there was only one fatality.

When it comes to semi-trailer truck/passenger vehicle accidents, a common misconception is that the truck driver was at fault due to fatigue, impairment or inexperience. But a number of studies have revealed that truckers are often blamed unfairly for accidents they could not have prevented.

Often Fault Rests With Motorists, Not Truckers

According to a 2013 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study found that car drivers were either fully or partly at fault in, while truckers were fully or partly to blame only 27 percent of the time.

The study also revealed that cars were the at-fault vehicle in 89 percent of the head-on collisions, 80 percent of the rear-end crashes and 72 percent of the side-swipes. Some of the factors that most often cause accidents involving trucks and cars include overdriving the road conditions, following too closely and failure to stay in the proper lane.

A report compiled by the American Trucking Associations revealed car drivers to be the causal factor in 89 percent of head-on crashes with semi-trailer trucks, 88 percent of opposite-direction side-swipe accidents, 80 percent of rear-end crashes and 72 percent of same-direction side-swipes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Trucks were considered at fault for 98 percent of the accidents that involved backing up.

What Driver Behaviors Cause Accidents With Trucks?

In 1999, a report sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, examined the high-risk driving behaviors that result in collisions between truck and car drivers. The unsafe driving acts, or UDAs, of motorists that contribute to car/truck crashes were also identified and ranked in order of frequency and severity:

  1. Inattentive driving, such as texting or talking on a cell phone
  2. Improper merging into traffic, forcing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly
  3. Failure to stop at a stop sign or signal
  4. Not slowing down in a construction zone
  5. Traveling at an unsafe speed or misjudging a truck’s speed
  6. Following a truck too closely
  7. Overdriving weather conditions (fog, rain, haze, bright sun)
  8. Changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck
  9. Driving in a trucker’s blind spots or “no-zones
  10. Attempting a turn without enough headway

 

Conclusion:

There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to estimates by the American Trucking Association. Trucking is a vital part of the US economy, moving roughly 70% of the nation’s freight. The fatality and crash numbers above are quite sobering and many factors go into those figures. Ultimately, there is no one cause for the increase and based on history, no revised regulation will totally fix the problem. As listed above, there are many factors and behaviors that lead to higher risk situations and potential accidents. Better education, awareness, and discernment are needed for all drivers on the roads in order for effective safety behavior to take place.

  • Knowing and understanding the capabilities and limitations of the vehicle you are driving as well as the vehicles around you are essential in navigating through busy highways, adverse weather conditions and maintaining safe distances to other vehicles.
  • Knowing and adhering to all road and safety signs while driving
  • Reducing or avoiding distractions while driving (cell phone use is one of the biggest causes for distracting drivers)

Sources:

CCJDigital Article

Bureau of Labor Statistics

FMCSA unsafe driver behavior around large trucks

To read a summary of ATA’s findings, click here, or to read the whole report, click here.