Truck drivers are some of the most experienced, safest drivers on the road. In fact, of all fatalities on the road, only 2.4% nationwide are truck drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But in some states, that number is much higher.
Other states’ fatality rates are connected to their inclement weather, such as Oklahoma and Colorado.
Business Insider used NHTSA data to find the states with the highest truck-driver fatality rates, and spoke to eight truckers to find out why driving there is so dangerous.
At 8.8%, North Dakota has the highest truck-driver fatality rate in the country. North Dakota is the worst state overall for workplace fatalities, and the majority of those deaths were “transportation incidents” caused by the oil boom.
Truck driver Sergei Dratchev explained the difficulties of driving in North Dakota. “If a heavy truck goes on the shoulder, it can get pulled in the ditch. Also, small two-lane roads can have deep snow on them (when they are not plowed), and you can just get stuck. Modern highway trucks are not designed to ‘off road. Also, if the traffic stops suddenly, big trucks need more stopping distance on snowy/icy roads. Daylight is short, and you often have to drive after dark, when deer and moose like to stroll around,” he said.
Wyoming and Nebraska are next on the list, with 6.7% and 5.9% fatality rates respectively. Icy roads and high winds are a big factor. Truck driver Jack Halquist said of his experience driving in Wyoming, “The winds especially near Elk Mountain, where the freeway turns diagonal, the wind often blows trucks over causing many accidents in the winter and the summer. From November all the way ’til May, it seems like, I-80 is closed most of the time because of snow, ice, and wind. Trucks can be waiting on the side of the road in a line as far as 10 miles waiting for the freeway to open. This can be as long as a few days and newer truck drivers don’t know this and are not prepared, and quite often they do not have any food or places to go to the bathroom.”
Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, and Colorado round out the list of states with the highest truck driver fatalities, with rates only slightly higher than the national average.