Trucking Fatalities Reach Highest Level in 29 Years

October 04, 2018 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

Deaths from large truck crashes reached their highest level in 29 years in 2017, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

Fatalities from big truck crashes rose even though the overall traffic fatality rate declined, the agency reported.

In 2017, 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes, a 2 percent decline from the prior year. The dip reversed two consecutive years of increases. Preliminary estimates indicate the downward trend is continuing through the first half of this year, according to NHTSA.

Large truck fatalities rose 9 percent to 4,761, an increase of 392 lives lost over the prior year. About 1,300 of the deaths were truckers. The remaining 72 percent occurred in the other vehicle involved in the collision.

About 40 percent of truck occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.

The biggest increase in fatalities occurred in trucks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds, including dual rear-wheel pickup trucks.

Deaths in over-the-road tractor-trailers that haul freight rose 5.8 percent over 2016. Those trucks exceed 26,000 pounds and must follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules.

“This is not encouraging. But it does not encompass the larger percentage of large truck fatalities,” Ray Martinez, FMCSA administrator, said in a conference call.

With freight on the nation’s roadways at an all-time high, “the potential of crashes and injuries does increase,” Martinez said.

He said his agency needs to explore causes for the higher death toll and how many FMCSA-regulated trucks involved were in crashes.

Distracted driving was a growing factor in the overall traffic death toll.

It also may explain some truck crashes, even as advanced driver assistance features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and cameras that see behind the truck are becoming standard on new trucks.

“We believe those new technologies add to the safety environment,” Martinez said. “But whether it’s enough to turn the tide is too soon to know.”

Read Next: FMCSA Chief Martinez Wins Praise for Approach to Truck Safety

51 Responses

    • Amanda

      That’s what happens when you “train” someone for a couple months and then turn them loose with 18 wheels and 80,000 lbs. Not to mention the HOS laws that cause people to drive like idiots to keep from being violated on their computers.

      • Richard Barnhardt

        This hits the nail right on the head. Drivers are allways raceing aginst the clock now.Thousands more will have to die before the Government will wake up and see that these ELD’s do not work.

    • Jerry Crackel

      I’m a 40 year veteran 4 million miles and some ice road trucking .This is my opinion put the h.o.s back the it was in the 70 s allow the sleeper time to be split so drivers can take a nap when they feel tired this crap once you start your clock sleepy are not you Have to go

      • Ray

        You are spot on. THE FMCSA IS THE PROBLEM. NOT THE SOLUTION! We are not children or robots that sleep when some useless gov pinhead decides. The death rate rose significantly after HOS.

        Truckers must unite and fight back. A national strike is the only thing that will put us back in control of our lives.

    • Lindy Starr

      ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha………………………………………………chuckle, gasp, ha ha ha ha.
      The newest unqualified bureaucrat “admits” in a national publication:
      “With freight on the nation’s roadways at an all-time high, “the potential of crashes and injuries does increase,” Martinez said.”
      So what the sam hill are they talking about “driver shortage” .
      Pipe Dream: take this bureaucrat out on the road for a week. Let his see the parking at truckstops; let him see trucks parked on off and on ramps for hundreds of feet; let HIM try to drive past supper time to find a safe place for the night.
      Reality: the monied ATA has got his ear, and perhaps his pocket book too? (and , giggle, we heard a rumor that ATA is starting to whine about the pinch the ELD has caused on their income, awwww).
      FYI: we have a sale on backbones this month only, buy your bureaucrat a new one , or perhaps he never had one. Buy one by 6pm on Halloween and we will ship two, for only $19.95, while supplies last; then you can give one to your congressman too.

    • Ken

      You are so right all warehouses should to provide parking for 12 hours. I have seen fist fights this summer over parking spots in both B.C. and Ontario this summer.

  1. Johann Blakely

    It’s the elog, with these drivers having to race a clock. One thing about these people in power, they’ll do and say anything just to avoid solving the real issue.

    • Andrea

      And people who can’t read English being given a drivers liscense period let along a CDL

      • Alex Sotos

        “let along a cdl”? And English is your first language?? Wow brilliant.

  2. David ammons

    The automatic breakings system is s danger and the elog is another factor they are running against the clock and that makes them dangerous

    • Jack

      Because we are dealing with Idiots! Smart drivers plan their time and don’t get in a hurry! We went on Qualcomm in August of 2010, I’ve run several turns of 4000+ miles without a reset, did two over 5000 miles, but everything just clicked just right! 40% of drivers killed were not wearing seatbelts, that definitely qualifies as an Idiot move! Glad I sold my truck, dealing with car drivers was bad enough but having to deal with crummy truck drivers too, makes for a stressful day!

      • Mark Schrader

        Smart drivers do plan their time but, you cannot plan for traffic jams dew to accidents or docks that make you wait hours to unload or load. And the list goes on and on. So tell me how you plan for these things I would really like to know. I too have had perfect days and weeks and run 5000 plus miles but there is a lot of luck involved along with planning.

      • stephen

        You are not doing L.TL. to grocery stores( or delivering propane) in the snow belt .

  3. David ammons

    I am also a otr truck driver i see these everyday its so pitiful the way truckers are driving today since the elog has been invoiced get rid of the elog and the automatic breaking systems on these big trucks and u will see the death and crash toll come down just saying

    • David Axe

      I agree but I don’t think they really care there is to much money to be made with this kind of useless crap like ELD,s. And they tell us it is for safety !

      • Al stas

        Yeah that’s the sick part they tell us it’s for safety

  4. Jim

    Well, what do they expect.
    Over the last 5-10 years ….faster, faster, FASTER, FASTER speeds,
    overspeeding the tires, etc………..

    • Donna

      Actually trucks are running slower.most of the companies in the 80’s and 90’s ran trucks at 85mph on average.only big companies ran slow speeds. The problem is lack of experience combined with racing a clock

  5. Moss

    14hr clock, unrealistic delivery deadlines, and the inability to stop your 14hr clock for less than 8hrs. Have people making rules for something they know nothing about. With elog you dont need 14hr rule your day is logged as you do it.

  6. David

    What I see is drivers who do not know to drive, can not back up, no training, a lot can not speak English so can not understand road signs.

  7. ken

    you guys are so full of sh@t. Trying to blame elogs on the increase when they were not even regulated till the end of year. Cellphones and distractive driving is the cause for the increase.

    • Marissa

      Agreed. I do think that there are too many regulations on our logs, but if you know how to plan a trip, the logs don’t interfere all that much. But cell phones and navigation systems are the biggest reason. Using resources you have available to plan your trip before you get on the road, and not picking up your cell phone every three seconds, keeps your focus where it needs to be – on the road

    • Brian

      To the dude who thinks e log is not the reason the only question I have r u a member of the ata a representative of the e log manufacturer or how much stock do u own in the e log companies. For your info the laws we drive under r written by shell British petroleum Macdonald Burger King Hardee’s Wendy’s sleep apnea doctors and now satellite companies. I almost forgot Elaine Chou n Mitch McConnell have blood in there hands to trucking is inefficient. Do not give me the spiels about driver shortages when there is a lack of truck parking. The smart thing to do is to take the trucks we have and make them more efficient not restrict them with e log.

  8. Luke Foster

    Boys are right about racing the clock. One of the worst things the better heads on staff have come up with is this 30 minuets brake crap. I can almost bet not the first one is willing to try working hard like we do in car hauler and shutting down in the middle of a shift to do nothing. When your motivated you don’t want to stop. When your forced to stop you get tired. Why in gods name can’t they realize that.
    Its so easy to try and come up with a plan for other when its not recognized by the ones writing the rules. In addition that same driver and truck has got to find a parking spot to take that brake. There is not enough parking now.

    Poor excuses and planning and as stated, its not working. 36 years OTR. Perfect record . Leave us alone with the old rules we would be mile ahead.

  9. Domingo Hernandez

    I for one am not surprised at the increase in accidents. To qualify my self, I started driving in 1968, I retired in 2013 at the ripe age of 67. My last ticket was in 1984, and I’ve logged in a few million safe driving miles. (If you want to believe me, fine, if not tough) Any way, in 2013, I went to work as a driver qualifications instructor. I worked for a trucking company and our job was to test drivers that applied for a job. We would let them drive and if we could we would show them what they were doing wrong and try to correct any bad habits or unsafe driving techniques they may have.
    So we would get “Many” drivers from Dearborn, Michigan and I always thought there was something very wrong in the drivers who came from there with a “CDL” in hand. Couldn’t understand English, couldn’t speak much English, couldn’t read a map or fill out a log book. These drivers were foreigners, but don’t jump to conclusion…they were not from our Southern border. To be sure, there were some, very few, who actually could drive, but not many. I for one, am glad to be out of a big rig, but I drive my four-wheeler very cautiously around trucks. I’m sure someone will doubt me, and for sure it will be some “Dingleberry” truck driver.

  10. Harvie L Christian

    Cameras that see behind the truck may be a problem. While the driver is looking at the camera view, he is distracted from the road. The display should be set to go off when the truck is moving forward.

    • John holt

      Yeah that auto braking almost got one of our drivers killed last year up in the snow country, the driver was all alone on I-80 in Illinois 2am in the morning he said that dam sensor picked up a overhead road sign and threw the truck into a critical event and the truck slammed on the brakes and JACKKNIFED his truck lucky for him he kept in upright and in the road,all this new CRAP they’re putting on these dam trucks is one of the biggest complaints and one of the big reasons drivers are quitting the trucking business along with elogs

      • ken

        This happened to my friend in northern Ontario last Feb. of 2018 in a Volvo . The truck came across a deer on the road in a snow storm doing 87 km per hour or 55 mph( the auto sensor) slammed on the brakes . The driver side was crushed when the trailer went over the embankment. The driver is now in a wheel chair

  11. Slick squid

    With these mega carriers churning out new drivers just for a tax cut and putting them solo with little experience is a major issue .. need to take a look at the mega carriers versus the smaller company’s and the small fleet owned trucks and you will see a big difference in driving style and the number of wrecks .elds have nothing to do with safety of driver if they would just pre plan better now the automatic breaking is an issue all on its own . Plain and simple out the phone down and drive everyone

  12. Jeromy Hodges

    It doesn’t mention who was at fault in those wrecks but my guess it falls right in line with the usual number involving overall wrecks bwteen cars and trucks, 75%-80% are the fault of the car.

    It is logical the death numbers would be higher than wrecks between multiple cars. When a car and truck are involved in a wreck the chances for someone’s death increase immensely.

    There are more trucks and more cars on the roads than ever, and so many more distracted drivers.

    This “blame the ELD” thing comes from people who never have liked the idea of ELDs and will blame ELDs for everything even though they have no evidence to support their claim.

    I drove with an ELD for over 5 years and I didn’t have to drive any different than when I didn’t have an ELD.

  13. Kevin Henrick

    The cell phone needs to somehow become a part of the DOT INSPECTION PROCESS. Too many drivers are driving our roadways not paying attention. Also you see quite a few of the drivers today driving with their feet on the dash. And when in the world did a Flip Flop become a working boot or shoe ? If the DOT wants to slow down the crash rate start with these items.

  14. Donald

    Elog has a lot to do with it and closing rest area and truck stop and charging to park trucks no where to park trucks anymore

  15. Kenneth Lange

    They got rid of the 24hr restart the only part of the new logs that made any sense, that is the problem

  16. David

    You putting to much in to electronic bull crap when it’s the drivers that don’t know how to deal with us old drivers know what we are doing and don’t depend on the electronic crape

  17. Carla Dickey

    Yeah if you get tired in the middle of the afternoon and want to take a nap no no nap cuz you’re racing up against that clock so you got to go this sucks

    • M Bowen

      Exactly! I’m sitting in the truck stop.starring out the windshield for 2 hours waiting for that damn elog to restart and have to drive when I should be sleeping. The elog and the log laws are ridiculous. Movers, car haulers, freight drivers, etc are all under the same elog laws but each job has different time requirements. The whole system is a failure!

  18. Valerie

    Start training these drivers better before you throw them behind the wheel!! When I started I went through 4 months of training before I could get my license…these companies who hire and throw them out there with only 2 weeks of training is half the problem, the other is the damn computers taking over so much it’s hard to keep your attention on something so freaking annoying! Like yeah I know I’m getting close to the vehicle in front of me but if I tried to pass back where it won’t beep at me I’ll be encouraging 4 wheelers to go into my blind spot to pass before I can even get close to the vehicle I’m trying to pass…it’s infuriating, I have 12 yrs experience I don’t need these damn training wheels

  19. Larry

    Get rid of the e-logs and you will get rid of the wrecks the people that push for the elog should be held liable for these deaths I have been driving over 40 years and I have never seen it so bad you see trucks everyday going through the truck stop in high range just to keep up with the clock

    • Brian Groves

      These larger companies could have fought off the e-logs if they wanted to, it was a huge surprise to me when they didn’t.

  20. Montana

    This Martinez guy is about the stupidest idiot I’ve ever ran across. Them E-Logs are just a bunch of bullshit. There’s a company in pa with tri axles m they are really not road worthy. Broken frames, shackles, bag mounts all kinds of illegal stuff. I wrote FMCSA, n they said oh we can’t do nothing. We’ll wait till shit gets real.

  21. Ken

    Too many time crunching regulations. The 14 hour rule is pushy, has your
    entire day racing against the clock. When you can relax and drive, no wrecks, when you’re pushed, start cutting corners, and taking chances, equals more wrecks

  22. lonnie schott

    It would be cut 90% if stop paying per mile and per load i drive and i have done stupid theings because could not make money by folowing rules pay by hour it would end madness

  23. Mike

    Ok I’ve been in Trucken now for 48 years and it is a jungle now that you have to beat the clock parking lots full and a lot of drivers have no idea how what can happen stay back off always think about what ifs and be safe out there today when I meet a truck I think the worse leave your self a hole when in dout get out of it

  24. Paul

    E logs has everything to do with it and that damn 30 minute break. 29 years driving truck. I know what I’m talking about it. E log is forcing the drivers who haven’t been out here very long to drive even though they are tired. Stupid break interrupts your momentum, not to mention forced drivers to drive faster if they are closing in on their destination and they either don’t or can’t stop. Need to go back to paper logs, or allow drivers to take up to 3 hours off duty without going against our 14 hour clock to get a nap, or sit out adverse weather . As far as that break it’s useless bull crap. We have more trucks on the road and less parking. Need more parking. Some of the greedy truck stops are now charging to park further compounding problems. I don’t care if someone doesn’t like what I have to say, it’s reality get over it.

  25. Susan

    Alarms. Bells. Whistles. Drivers are so DISCONNECTED from the truck they are bored and distracted. They don’t pay attention. You tell a driver about being able to “feel” the tires on the road and they look at you like you are from Mars. Get rid of all this safety bullshit and make trucks and drivers ONE again. That will improve safety aling with decent training. This 14 day or even 1 day get a cdl HAS TO END. 32 yrs on the road. No accidents. No tickets. And I refuse to drive these “safer” trucks.


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