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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Truck driver remains one of the deadliest occupations in the country

In 2015 Work-related fatalities for trucking jobs dropped slightly with 745 drivers killed on the job last year while 761 drivers were killed on the nation’s streets and highways in 2014. Despite the drop, trucking transportation occupations accounted for slightly more than a quarter of all work-related fatalities last year, more than any other U.S. job, according to an annual workplace fatality report released Friday from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is it the fault of technology? Is it the fault of over-regulation? Are regulations touted as “for safety” really for safety? Is it the fault of less experienced people at the wheel? Is training inadequate? Does increases in traffic have any bearing? In reality every one of these questions can be legitimately answered with a qualified yes.

One of the technological advances coming down the pike is vehicle to vehicle communication where the vehicles themselves “talk” to one another. Drivers used to practice V2V communication for decades with the CB. But the use of the CB has been discouraged in some jurisdictions, outlawed in some, because it’s a distraction. Yet, that same V2V communication is what kept the roads safe and is in the near future going to have a computer doing that task.

Before speed limiters, drivers drove according to the road conditions. With speed limiters drivers drive to the limit of the truck rather than conditions. Before the advent of cruise control drivers used “feel” to adjust. Now, with cruise control, drivers abdicate responsibility despite the fact cruise should never be used when conditions could be slippery. So, is training good enough? A resounding NO. While statistics can tell part of the story and are useful to a degree, they can’t and don’t tell the whole story. Questions must be asked to reach proper, sound conclusions.

Truck driver fatalities have risen 11.2 percent over the past five years. Increased reliance on trucking to transport goods, including demand for rapid delivery created by the rise of online shopping, is putting more truck drivers on the road. This has contributed to higher incident rates for accidents and driver deaths, according to trucking industry experts.

While traffic-related fatalities have risen over the past five years, the American Trucking Association estimates the number of fatal truck-involved crashes has fallen 32 percent since 1980 and the accident rate per 100 million miles driven has dropped 74 percent, due in part to trucking industry investments in safety technology and training.

Studies by the Department of Transportation and AAA found roughly two-thirds of all fatal truck crashes are caused by a vehicle other than the truck.

The sheer number of truck drivers in the industry means that even though more were killed in work-related injuries in 2015 than any other profession, a handful of less populous occupations had higher injury rates based on total number of workers. In 2015, the trucking industry had a fatal injury rate of 25.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, lower than loggers (132.7), fishery workers (54.8), airplane pilots (40.4), roofers (39.7), garbage collectors (38.8) and steel workers (29.8).

In 2015, most work-related truck driver deaths were caused by traffic collisions. In most instances, the cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries or disorders.

The vast majority of drivers killed on the job were men: 699 of 745, according to the BLS. Female drivers accounted for 1 percent of trucking industry deaths, a disproportionately small percentage given women make up 5 percent to 6 percent of all U.S. drivers, according to industry estimates.

Middle-aged drivers were slightly most likely to be killed in work-related accidents. This statistic mirrors the “trucking generation,” drivers who are 45 to 54-year-olds and represent the largest age group in the industry. That age group accounted for 196 deaths, or 26.3 percent of all truck driver fatalities, according to the BLS. Drivers ages 55 to 64, the second largest group, accounted for 25 percent of all fatalities (184), followed by drivers 35 to 44 (18.5 percent), 25 to 34 (12 percent), 65 and older (11 percent) and 20 to 24 (2 percent). What the statistics indicate clearly the percentages of work related injuries are almost exactly the same as the make up of the trade in the industry.

In 2015, the majority of drivers killed on the job were white: 500, or about 67 percent, followed by African Americans (12.6 percent), Hispanic or Latino (11.1 percent), Asian (2 percent) and Native Americans or other races (1 percent). Again, following quite similarly to the demographics of the trucking industry.

Truck driver deaths in 2015 included 17 suicides and five homicides.