The Number of Truckers Who Die in Accidents Each Year
Last updated Friday, March 17th, 2023
What contributes to trucker fatalities? Large trucks are not only heavy and big, they also are more dangerous to drive than a car or passenger truck. They require a specialized set of skills to operate safely.
Both single-vehicle and multi-vehicle accidents are included in the statistics of truck driving collisions. Most deaths occur to people in the passenger vehicle when there is a collision between a large truck and a passenger vehicle.
There are 110,000 semi-truck accidents that result in injuries (roughly 28%). About 40,000 (or 11% ) are fatal. However, due to the size of the truck, well over half of these semi-truck crashes kill passenger car occupants and not the driver of the commercial trucks.
Common Causes of Truck Driver Fatalities in Accidents
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2020, 59% of large truck operator deaths occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
Single vehicle accidents are accidents that involve the truck only, and no other vehicles. Common types of single-vehicle truck accidents include rollovers, jackknifing, and loss of control.
Multi-vehicle accidents, however, are also common. These accidents involve other vehicles in addition to the truck. These accidents include different types of collisions, such as head-on and rear end collisions.
According to IIHS, for crashes that involved both a truck and a passenger vehicle, 68% of deaths happened to occupants of passenger vehicles and 15% of truck drivers died. The last 16% of fatalities happened to motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
There are many factors that are out of the control of a truck driver to some extent. Drivers of course are required to drive as safely as they can, even when there are other factors at play. Inclement weather issues, unsafe roadway conditions, and poor lighting are typical environmental factors that can add to the danger of having an accident.
Human Factors Contributing to Truck Driver Fatalities in Accidents
Professional truck drivers are expected to be in good physical health. Typically, they are required to have regular physicals every 1 to 2 years to make sure that they meet the standards of the Department of Transportation (DOT). There are also some medical conditions that disqualify them from driving a truck, either temporarily or even permanently.
Truck drivers tend to work long hours, and drive for extended periods of time. If this is combined with the lack of adequate rest or sleep disorders, driver fatigue can be a serious safety issue.
Truckers are required to obey the same laws and rules as passenger vehicle drivers, with a few more added. This means that distractions from the use of cell phones or navigation systems are a definite no-no.
Eating and drinking while driving is also considered a dangerous distraction. Any behavior that takes the trucker’s attention away from driving is considered to be a serious offense.
As a professional over-the-road driver, truckers are expected to be at their best while on the road and are held to very high standards when it comes to any sort of impairment. Alcohol and drug use are strictly prohibited, and operators are required to take random drug and alcohol tests whenever they are asked to do so.
Sometimes medical conditions can cause impairment issues because they can affect how well a driver can maintain a truck. There are certain medical conditions that disqualify a trucker from driving a commercial vehicle. A few examples of these conditions include certain heart conditions, vision or hearing loss, or any condition that can cause seizures or vertigo.
Lack of Training and Experience
Just like in any other industry, experience takes time to acquire. If a driver wasn’t trained properly to begin with, the experience they have may not be up to par. Luckily there is a training program and testing system that is required before ever obtaining a license to drive these big trucks.
Industry Factors Contributing to Truck Driver Fatalities in Accidents
No one ever said that driving a truck for a living is an easy job. There are over 3 million truck drivers in the United States and only one in nine truckers are owner operators, meaning they either lease or own their own truck and create their own schedules. The rest of the truck driving population are company truck drivers.
Company truck drivers have to follow a schedule that is created for them. Sometimes this causes scheduling problems and a safety issue to be able to meet their deadlines.
Pressure to Meet Tight Deadlines
Company truck drivers typically do not get a say in the loads they are assigned. The dispatchers for the company they work for decides when and where loads are picked up and delivered. These drivers are at a much higher disadvantage, as they have higher stress to finish their deliveries and are sometimes subject to unreasonable schedules.
Inadequate Safety Regulations and Enforcement
Some regular maintenance of trucks is required under DOT safety regulations and the DOT is in charge of the enforcement of those regulations. Not all trucks are kept up and maintained to the highest safety standards, unfortunately.
Lack of Maintenance on Vehicles
Repairs and maintenance take time and costs money, so they aren’t always completed as they should be. Some companies will try to get away without performing the standard maintenance or make necessary repairs. Sometimes they are caught and sometimes they aren’t. If they are caught, they have to face repercussions that can be quite serious.
Inadequate Safety Equipment
All trucks are required to have certain types of safety equipment. Equipment such as fire extinguishers, spare electrical fuses, and at least three red reflective safety triangles are required for all operators with a CDL license.
Depending upon the load being carried, there may be other safety equipment that is required, such as if carrying a product that is hazardous or comes with additional risks.
Safe driving, adequate training, and drivers that are serious about safety issue are the most important issues at hand when it comes to the safety of truck drivers.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatalities from Accidents
It is so important that each individual driver stays alert and aware of their surroundings to keep the possibility of an accident to a minimum. Driver mistakes have cost a lot of truckers their lives in the past.
The company that owns and maintains each truck, if different from the operator, also bares a lot of responsibility in eliminating problems that can cause injuries or accidents.
It’s Time to Improve Safety Measures in the Trucking Industry
Safety regulations are there for a reason, and it’s time that the trucking industry takes a stand to ensure the safety of truck drivers. Sure, some safety changes can be expensive to implement but when comparing the cost of better equipment to the value of a human life, there shouldn’t ever be a question as to which is more important.
Better Support for Truckers’ Physical and Mental Well-Being
Truck drivers are people too, and as such, should have adequate support for both their physical well-being, as well as their mental well-being. Every driver should feel that their basic needs are taken into consideration, such as sleep schedules and reasonable timelines for deliveries. Employees that are taken care of are safer drivers, and accidents can be cut down significantly if truckers needs a higher priority.
Personal Responsibilities of both Truck Drivers and Owners to Follow Safety Guidelines and Regulations
Safety guidelines are everyone’s responsibility, and need to be taken more seriously. As a truck driver, it is important to keep focused and eliminate possible distractions. Don’t ever drive when you are tired or not feeling up to par. The lives of others and yourself relies on you remaining vigilant.
As a truck owner, maintaining and repairing trucks will make them last longer and be safer for everyone involved, from drivers to other vehicles to pedestrians. Eliminating the risk of part failures will go a long way in creating a safer trucking industry.
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