Trucker Deaths Highest in 29 Years

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An October 2018 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that traffic fatalities involving large trucks rose 9 percent year over year to the highest level in 29 years. Heavy-duty truck fatalities rose 3 percent in 2017 compared with 2016.

Trucking as a profession had 26.8 deaths per 10,000 workers, compared with 3.5 deaths per 10,000 for all professions.

In 2017, 840 truckers lost their lives on the job, 6.6 percent more than the 786 reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016. The number of heavy-duty trucking deaths has risen by 25 percent since 2011.

The labor bureau data also showed that for the fifth consecutive year, overdose deaths at work from nonmedical drugs and alcohol increased at least 25 percent.

Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, said, “Commercial drivers must be well-trained, well-rested and drug- and alcohol-free,” adding that “More effective drug tests are needed.”

About 1 in 7 applicants for trucking jobs cannot pass a drug test, according to the National Transportation Institute.

Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said, “Distracted driving, excessive speed and lack of seat belt use contribute to trucking deaths, just as they do to deaths of passenger car occupants. At least 38 percent of truck drivers killed in 2017 were not wearing seatbelts”.

Drowsy driving is another factor, especially in work zones, where heavy-duty trucks are responsible for 3 in 10 crashes. Some drivers admit to racing the clock to get miles in under hours-of-service rules that are digitally monitored by electronic logging devices.

Most crashes in which the trucker was at fault and judged to be sleepy or fatigued occurred at least 20 miles from a rest area or truck stop, according to a study in the November 2017 edition of Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Many in the industry attribute driver fatigue to a lack of accessible and safe parking.

Truckers voted safe rest areas as their second-greatest concern following hours-of-service rules changes in the latest Top 10 challenges compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute. Motor carriers voted it their ninth-highest priority. That made it the No. 5 concern overall.

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said additional safe rest areas for drivers need to be part of any infrastructure bill.

President Donald Trump called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in his 2016 campaign.