Fatality rate for large trucks falls to all-time low

THE FATAL CRASH RATE for large trucks in 2004 fell to its lowest point since statistics were first tracked in 1975 by the United States Department of Transportation.

The 2004 rate for large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) was 1.96 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle-miles-traveled, according to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) vehicle mileage figures that are used to help determine crash rates for all vehicles.

This rate breaks the previous low of 1.97 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle-miles-traveled in 2002 and is substantially lower than the 2003 rate of 2.19. There was a 14.8% increase in total large-truck miles traveled — from 216 billion in 2003 to 248 billion in 2004.

The lower fatality rate comes despite an increase in the number of vehicles on the road. According to the FHWA, there were nearly 6.3 million more registered cars and trucks in 2004 than in 2003.

“The numbers show a continuing improvement in US highway safety within the trucking industry and among our professional drivers,” American Trucking Associations president and CEO Bill Graves said. “Motor carrier commitment to safety is making a difference for everyone.”

The ATA believes the lower fatal crash rate is related to the trucking industry's continual efforts to increase safety on the nation's highways — including increased education on sharing the road with large trucks and increased traffic enforcement for cars that operate unsafely around large trucks.

The ATA recently called for the governors of 25 states to push for the adoption of primary safety belt laws in their respective states — regulations that would allow police officers to stop and issue traffic citations to motorists failing to wear their safety belts.

The ATA also backed a federal regulation requiring the use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) to document driver compliance with work and rest rules, provided EOBR use demonstrably improves safety performance and compliance, along with other conditions.

Graves credited the industry's outreach efforts with playing a major role in improving highway safety.

ATA represents more than 37,000 motor carrier members from every class of motor carriers.

4,862 fatal crashes

In 2004, 416,000 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes in the United States; 4,862 were involved in fatal crashes. A total of 5,190 people died (12% of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2004) and an additional 116,000 were injured in those crashes.

In 2003, large trucks accounted for 3% of all registered vehicles and 7% of total vehicle miles traveled. In 2004, large trucks accounted for 8% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 4% of all vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only crashes. One out of eight traffic fatalities in 2004 resulted from a collision involving a large truck.

Among those killed in crashes involving large trucks, 77% were occupants of another vehicle, 8% were non-occupants, and 15% were occupants of a large truck.

Of those injured in crashes involving large trucks, 73% were occupants of another vehicle, 3% were non-occupants, and 24% were occupants of a large truck.

Large trucks were much more likely to be involved in a fatal multiple-vehicle crash — as opposed to a fatal single-vehicle crash — than were passenger vehicles (84% of all large trucks involved in fatal crashes, compared with 62% of all passenger vehicles).

In 28% of the two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a large truck and another type of vehicle, both vehicles were impacted in the front. The truck was struck in the rear 3.2 times more often than the other vehicle (19% and 6%, respectively).

In 50% of the two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a large truck and another type of vehicle, both vehicles were proceeding straight at the time of the crash. In 10% of the crashes, the other vehicle was turning. In 9%, either the truck or the other vehicle was negotiating a curve. In 8%, either the truck or the other vehicle was stopped or parked in a traffic lane (6% and 2%, respectively).

Most of the fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred in rural areas (66%), during the daytime (67%), and on weekdays (80%). During the week, 74% of the crashes occurred during the daytime (6 am to 5:59 pm). On weekends, 62% occurred at night (6 pm to 5:59 am).

The percentage of drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher was 1% in 2004. For drivers of other types of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2004, the percentages of drivers with BAC levels .08 g/dL or higher were 22% for passenger cars, 21% for light trucks, and 27% for motorcycles.

Drivers of large trucks were less likely to have a previous license suspension or revocation than were passenger car drivers (7% and 13%, respectively). More than one-fourth (26%) of all drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2004 had at least one prior speeding conviction, compared to 19% of the passenger-car drivers involved in fatal crashes.

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