Federal Data Shows Trucking Remains One of America’s Deadliest Jobs

January 11, 2021 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Trucking remains one of the deadliest occupations, according to the latest federal data on workplace deaths. 

More than one of every seven on-the-job deaths occur in heavy-duty trucking, according to the recently released National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report said the tally included 843 trucker deaths in 2019, the latest period the data cover. That was a 1.4 percent increase, topping the 831 of the prior year.

Trucker deaths have grown steadily since falling off a high of 880 in 2014 to 745 in 2015, according to the federal data.

Including professional drivers of light-duty trucks, the industry suffered 1,005 fatal occupational injuries last year, the highest since the agency started tracking the category in 2003.

But trucking is not the nation’s most dangerous occupation. 

Fishing and hunting workers have an on the job fatality rate of 145 per 100,000. Loggers, roofers and construction workers also have higher death rates. Drivers and truckers have a death rate of 26.8, which ranks seventh on the risk list. According to the federal data, the rate for all workers is 3.5 per 100,000, unchanged from the prior year. 

A variety of factors contribute to the high rate of trucker deaths, said Steve Williams, chief executive of Maverick USA, a Little Rock, Ark., motor carrier and the president of The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security.

“Without a doubt, we recognize that there are too many avoidable injuries and fatalities in the industry. We support the idea to have zero fatalities, and it is a realistic goal,” Williams told Trucks.com.

Improving road infrastructure to reduce traffic hazards would be one step to improve safety.  William also would like to see greater used of advanced driver assistance systems such as forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot alert and similar technology. 

Another would be to make sure that drivers impaired by alcohol and drug use are kept off the road, he said. 

The Alliance supports expanding the federal driver Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database to include drug test failures of all commercial truck drivers, including those who operate delivery trucks and box trucks. 

Regulators also should make hair follicle drug testing a safety requirement. William said is signicantly more accurate than urine tests. A University of Central Arkansas study found that compared with urine analysis more rigid hair drug testing would remove as many as 300,000 truckers from the profession. 

“We need to get those people off the road. Driving a truck is not an entitlement. It is a privilege, and the No. 1 responsibility is that you have to be safe for yourself and those with who you share the road,” Williams said. 

Another important safety factor would be stricter law enforcement and better educational efforts to reduce distracted driving by those operating passenger vehicles. Williams said Maverick drivers looking down from their truck cabs at the traffic surrounding them frequently see light vehicle drivers texting and conducting other tasks besides driving. 

“All the safety technology in the world can’t fix stupid,” he said. 

Jerry Hirsch November 10, 2020
Finding truck drivers, especially as the current ages and more people are reluctant to spend time from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the trucking industry's biggest challenge.

7 Responses

  1. John Otto

    You can’t fix Stupid? you say. Stupid is your insistence that drivers need to have 24 hour tracking, need a hackable internet connected device hard wired to their engines, your refusal to concede that drivers are pushed even more to go nonstop, speed and work themselves into exhaustion from this same hackable device. And more than any other single factor, the stress and tiredness are the main basis for accidents, even with the lousy car drivers. And as to Maverick’s comments, they are making a bundle from these ELD fees and from constant monitoring and the resultant harrassment therein.
    The solution? Pay us fairly, for ALL hours worked instead of allowing us to be stolen from while loading and unloading, fueling etc. Then have the hours available every day the same instead of this gobble-d-gook mishmash of recalculating different hours every day. It is so simple, but then again, no one can make obscene profits on simple now, can they.

    • Mark Cobb

      Well said.
      If Steve was so worried about accidents, his trucks wouldn’t run so slow, riding in the center and left lanes, impeding traffic, creating the situations that cause rear end collisions with other distracted drivers.
      Yes, I use the phrase, “other distracted drivers”, because by his own admission, and his drivers admittance, they have the time, while driving, to perve and observe the actions of others, while looking down into others vehicles for a period of time long enough to see how they are distracted. So they admit to being distracted watching other drivers that are distracted, instead of watching the road.
      Might want to Amp up those hair follicle drug test at your own place there Steve. Probably get a couple hundred alcoholic druggies off the road, knock a dent into that 300,000. I mean seriously, you would have to be on something to think Maverick was a good place to work.

    • Sgt Acosta

      Its amazing how Maverick USA is so concerned about truck driver safety. Makes me wonder, how much does this outfit pay their drivers. Pay and micro management is the biggest reason for the situation trucking industry is in. 35 year professional driver with 3.4 million safe miles, zero accidents and zero moving violations. Pay scale is the same or less of what was paid to professional truck drivers 10 years ago.

  2. Kyra

    Accidents continue to increase…..wow, those electronic logging devices are really working… more tired drivers on the road than ever before trying to beat that clock before they run out of drive time. Way to go government…..

  3. Jim H.

    I drive truck speed limits, and 18s pass me all the time running 10MPH or more over limits, even in fog. No wonder some guys crash. Drivers don’t need more gadgets, just respect for the rules.

  4. Mateo

    I just start working in the industry as a long haul driver, don’t make me wrong I’m 43 yrs old, mature enough to know what I’m doing when I’m driving! But seriously 0.36cts a mile (in Canadian dollars not US) because I’m a rookie, so why am I supposed to care! And all that time being not paid, of course you can’t stop or slow down because of that! And because we can’t find a parking spot before a least an hour before going into violation, what do we do, well we stay on the gas pedal to try to beat the time. And nobody cares about us anyway, we’re just a tool, their is a major storm on the way for me the day of my departure, do you think we’re ask to stay home, now we are ask to slow down, at the end of the day, maybe 11 hours driving and 3 hours of work for what maybe 500 miles, C$180 a day = C$12.85 an hour, way under our minimum wage, and this is legal!!! That industry is the mess, but hey, capitalism is what the government want, so let us just be a number, a dead one!

  5. D

    I’ve never felt more unsafe since I have in the last 12-13 months in a truck, especially trying to cross across the parking lot to catch a shower. Truck driving is not racing (ELD’s or anything else). So f-off, on my way out of the industry.


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