Trucking Fatalities Reach Highest Level in 30 years

October 22, 2019 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Trucker deaths continue to rise and are at their highest level in more than 30 years, according to data released Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The federal agency said 885 large truck occupants died in 2018. That’s an increase of almost 1 percent compared to the prior year. It is the highest since 1988 when 911 occupants of large trucks died.

Looking beyond truckers, overall deaths involving crashes with large trucks also continue to rise. The agency said 4,678 people died in collisions with large trucks last year. That’s up by almost 1 percent from the 4,369 that died in 2017.

Fatalities involving large trucks increased for the fourth consecutive year, the NHTSA said. And pedestrians killed in crashes involving large trucks increased by 13 percent last year.

“The numbers are even more reason that we shouldn’t head in the direction of loosening safety rules proven to work to make trucking safer, and that help reduce the risks for people who share the road with trucks,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


The American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry’s largest trade group, said the NHTSA figures “alone provide an incomplete picture of the safety of our highways.” The trade group said the data does not do account for how many vehicles drove on U.S. roads in 2018 and how many miles they traveled.

The trade group wants to see the federal government launch a new “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” to update 2006’s examination of truck crashes. That study, the ATA said, found that road users other than truckers cause the majority of crashes with big vehicles.

“ATA believes safety is of paramount importance and that’s why we’re proud to represent an industry that is committed to reducing highway fatalities by investing nearly $10 billion annually in technology and training, as well as promoting safe and responsible behavior on the roads by all motorists,” the trade group said.

Increasing deaths involving crashes in large trucks runs counter to a national trend of improved highway safety in recent years.


Motor vehicle crashes killed 36,560 on U.S. roadways during 2018, a 2.4 percent decline from 37,473 in 2017. Deaths also fell from 2016 to 2017.

Nearly every other category with the exceptions of truckers, pedestrians and cyclists had fewer deaths last year, according to the NHTSA.

• Passenger car occupants (702 fewer fatalities, 5.2 percent decrease)
• Van occupants (98 fewer deaths, 8.3 percent decrease)
• SUV occupants (76 fewer fatalities, 1.6 percent decrease)
• Pickup truck occupants (82 fewer fatalities, 1.9 percent decrease)
• Motorcyclists (244 fewer deaths, 4.7 percent decrease)
• Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities (397 fewer fatalities, 3.6 percent decrease)
• Speeding-related fatalities (569 fewer fatalities, 5.7 percent decrease)
• Fatalities in single-vehicle crashes (654 fewer fatalities, 3.2 percent decrease)
• Fatalities in multiple-vehicle crashes (259 fewer fatalities, 1.5 percent decrease)
• Passenger vehicle occupants killed in rollover crashes (681 fewer deaths, 9.5 percent decrease)

All of those categories fell even though people are driving more. The nation’s vehicle miles traveled rose by 0.3 percent from 2017 to 2018. The fatality rate per 100 million VMT decreased by 3.4 percent from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018.

“This is encouraging news, but still far too many perished or were injured, and nearly all crashes are preventable, so much more work remains to be done to make America’s roads safer for everyone,” said Elaine L. Chao, U.S. transportation secretary.

The Department of Transportation said more than 90 percent of traffic crashes are a result of human error.


Safety officials attribute the dip in traffic deaths partially to improvements in light passenger vehicles.

“New vehicles are safer than older ones and when crashes occur, more new vehicles are equipped with advanced technologies that prevent or reduce the severity of crashes,” said James Owens, NHTSA’s acting administrator.

Automakers are equipping new vehicles with features such as forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking. Those features reduce some types of crashes by up to 50 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Other features such as rear-view cameras and blind-spot alerts also reduce traffic deaths.

Large trucks are only beginning to get those safety systems.

“We’re pleased to see the overall traffic crash figures on public roads decrease, but we remain concerned but the increases in truck deaths, pedestrian deaths and cyclists fatalities,” said Jason Levine, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety.

Levine wants safety officials to conduct more study into why deaths are rising in three areas even as the fall overall.

One contributor to the reported rise in deaths involving large trucks is the way the NHTSA now sorts its data.

The agency said it reexamined supporting material and reclassified several light pickup trucks to an appropriate large truck category. As a result, the NHTSA revised the 9 percent increase in large-truck-related fatalities reported for 2017 to 4.9 percent.

Alan Adler October 31, 2018
Driving faster to beat eight-hour rest-break rule joins distracted driving and fatigue as causes of rising fatal truck crashes, some trucking experts say.

21 Responses

  1. Steve Rose

    Hey dumbass……eLogs went in ; completely……accidents have gone up. See the correlation?? …… No, because your head is up your asses.

  2. Ben

    Elogs. It’s very simple a study is not needed but you will spend millions to do so. Listen to vetran truckers it’s elogs causing the number of fatalities to rise!!

  3. Andy

    Elogs and poorly trained truck drivers are the biggest problem…since there has been a claim of a shortage in truck drivers, the mega carriers have been targeting the unemployable and unskilled workers with the promise of a great career and lots of money…they hire uneducated and mentally unstable individuals to fill their trucks and take no responsibility for when things go wrong..they blame it on driver error..stop 3rd party testing and do better evaluations of potential drivers by bringing back the apprenticeship of becoming a truck driver..then you will gradually see a decrease in truck accidents..old school drivers have and always been the best truck drivers on the road..stop these mega carriers from destroying this profession with their poor hiring practices..bring back “old school” training..plain and simple

    • Eli

      Can’t agree with you more. I work in the industry directly dealing with drivers and this rings true.

    • kara megella

      I talked to an Ontario Trucker back around 2002 or 03 who claimed Oil patch drivers in Alberta and Sask truck drivers basically were not as well trained as eastern drivers and haven’t the skills of eastern drivers. Well to him and any other easterner who wants to come here and show us here in Alberta & Sask how to drive you’re more than welcome to show us how it’s done.

    • Scott

      As a 27 year truck driving veteran, I couldn’t agree with you more. The mega carriers will literally hire anyone, train them quickly, and throw them to the wolves in less than 2-3 weeks. A lot of them are immigrants who can barely speak English or cannot speak English at all. Funny how it states in the CMV regulations that a CMV driver must be able to read, write, and understand the English language proficiently in order to drive a CMV.

  4. D.j.Bruneau

    Stop all truck training schools for profit. They dont operate on a honest pass/fail system. Period. Stop secondary testers also.when you can buy a C.D.L. hello,there’s your problem. Retired self taught driver of 43years. Thank-you!

  5. A. Wilson

    We can’t keep blaming E love for everything. Problem is poorly trained drivers that can’t speak the language. Don’t know the rules of the road, and have no idea how to drive in poor weather. They feel that they are doing nothing wrong with the way they drive. I hope I can retire before one of these ” steering wheel holders ” kill me.

  6. Daniel Kennedy

    It would be difficult to see those fatalities as avoiding a four wheeler! Also with a modern class eight, maybe some drivers are getting lulled into tpms, side warning, collision avoidance etc etc. Some of us”older” folks see the rise in total disrespect for big trucks and each other, from merging to speeding to tailgating. It is not a statistic for those big trucks it is a statistic of our society!

  7. Jeff

    You have truck drivers racing the clock you have immigrants with not enough training and young kids think is a race circuit and the everyday people in a hurry running late and city’s getting congested all these factors to deal with growing population

  8. D

    These people just KEEP adding more “safety” regulations and the wrecks keep adding up…poorly trained/BARELY trained people behind the wheels of these trucks…add in unreasonable pick up and deliveries…fines if you’re late…hold ups for HOURS at shippers and receivers….you
    REALLY want to know why more and more wrecks are happening? Come out here with us for 6 months…more “SAFETY”laws are NOT going to help this problem one bit.
    Need to make it MANDATORY…you wanna be a dispatcher….show at LEAST 2 yrs OTR.

  9. Stephen Webster

    E- logs are the problem receivers fines for being late lack of parking and low wages are the main reasons for more accidents. In 2005 a study was done in Canada. In February of 2006 a safety group and the Federal government said long haul truck drivers should make 1.9 times the minimum wage with overtime after 10 hours per day. The large trucking companies instead brought in speed limiters and made the right dontions get permits for oversea truck drivers and E-logs.5195239586

  10. Shaun

    I see truckers who are so in tune with their trailers and loads that maneuvering in heavily trafficked areas seems second nature, not to mention the ease and singular motion of what for others would be nervous, slow, three…hundred point turns as they back into a loading dock always with < space…. then they leave their air brake off and the forks go into the pavement. I’ve know several people who were hit and run by semis in Rialto this year alone.

  11. Aaron

    I recently had to drive an “automated” truck: Auroshift with auto braking and radar lane departure. Never felt so worn out.

  12. Rome

    Another factor to consider is the drug and alcohol problem thats plaguing the trucking industry. Truckers in US had the highest frequency of positive test for alcohol in the world. I honestly do not see why law enformcement don’t do random drug/alcohol at weigh stations across the country. It would get drivers who do not belong on the road off of it, and drivers without integrity out of the industry.

    • Aldinette

      How about starting a referendum in your state and see how many signatures you can get to get in on the State ballot? I’m sure MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) one of the biggest National and State Lobbys will underwrite or take over your suggestion.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Subscribe to our mailing lists

Choose one or more topics: