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

29 Responses

  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

  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

  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 !

  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

  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

  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

  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

  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.


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