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Industry puts the brakes on truck-involved fatalities

Jan. 25, 2016
The trucking industry is getting safer. According to the American Trucking Associations analysis of US Department of Transportation data, in both the short- and long-term, the rate of truck-involved fatalities is declining.

The trucking industry is getting safer. According to the American Trucking Associations analysis of US Department of Transportation data,  in both the short- and long-term, the rate of truck-involved fatalities is declining.

“America’s trucking industry has invested billions to improve safety and that commitment is paying off,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer.

David McNew/Getty Images News

According to ATA’s analysis of miles traveled data from the Federal Highway Administration and highway fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the truck-involved fatality rate fell for the second straight year to 1.40 per 100 million miles traveled.

According to NHTSA, there were 3,903 truck-involved fatalities in 2014, or 61 less than the previous year. At the same time, the number of miles traveled by large trucks rose to more than 279 billion. These figures only represent fatalities where a large truck was involved in the crash and do not reflect the cause of crash. Studies have found that trucks are responsible for initiating less than a third of all fatal car-truck crashes.

The fatality rate dipped 2.78% from 2013 and has fallen 4.76% over the past two years. More importantly, it has fallen 40.6% over the past decade.

William B Cassidy, senior editor with the Journal of Commerce, reports that the 10- and 20-year trucking trends are far better than the five-year trend from 2009 through 2013. During that period, annual truck-related fatalities climbed 17.3% after falling 20.4% in 2009 alone. Total highway fatalities fell by 3.4% in that period. According to Cassidy’s article:

The drop in truck-related fatalities in 2014, the most robust year of the economic recovery to date, when cumulative miles traveled for all vehicles rose 1.7%, is not insignificant.

The annual truck-related fatality numbers also haven’t reached pre-recession levels and are far below the numbers consistently reported in the 1990s and first half of the last decade.

To an extent, the long-term decline in truck-related crash deaths mirrors overall improvements in highway safety. In 2014, the total number of US accident fatalities—32,675—was down 25.9% from 2005, after rising 4% from 1995 to 2004. That compares with a 25.5% decline in truck fatalities in the most recent period and a 1.8% 1995-2004 increase.

“The short-term decline is welcome news, but the important figure is the long-term trend,” Graves said. “Short-term changes, whether they’re increases or declines, can be blips, and just like you shouldn’t track your 401k on a daily basis, they shouldn’t be the primary lens truck safety is viewed through. The long-term trend—in this case, a more than 40% improvement—is of paramount importance.”

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