According to a recent report by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, driving large commercial trucks is one of the deadliest occupations in the nation from a pure numbers standpoint, with 745 drivers killed in the job in 2015. This represents a drop from 2014, when 761 drivers were killed. The occupation accounts for more work-related fatalities than any other job, constituting 1/4 of all such on-the-job fatalities.
Another troubling trend is that truck driver deaths have also risen 11.2 percent over last 5 years. Many in the industry believe that this spike is due to the rise of rapid delivery that accompanied the rise of online shopping. This puts more drivers on the roads and brings with it higher crash rates.
The structure of most drivers’ compensation also helps push this dangerous trend, as drivers earn more for driving more hours. This often brings a conflict for drivers between working more or resting more. Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of wrecks involving 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks.
Additionally, the long hours, relatively low pay, and rough working conditions create lots of job turnover, right around 100 percent annually for the industry. With such a high rate of turnover, many of the drivers on the road are inexperienced. Lastly, truck drivers reportedly take off 22 days of work every year due to job-related injuries or illness, the most of any occupation in the US.
When looking at long-terms trends, there is, however, some good news: According to the American Trucking Association, the overall number of fatal crashes involving a large truck has fallen 32 percent since 1980. Additionally, the accident occurrence rate for every 100 million miles driven has dropped 74 percent in the same time period. This is mostly caused by an increase in safety technology and training methods in the trucking industry.
Another factor that contributes to the high number of fatalities is simply the sheer number of truck drivers working in the industry. Several other occupations had higher rates of injury (as opposed to simply the number of injuries). For every 100,000 full time truck drivers, there were 25.2 fatal injuries in 2015. Loggers (132.7 fatal injuries in 2015 for every 100,000 full time workers), fishery workers (54.8 per 100,000) airplane pilots (40.4), roofers (39.7), garbage collectors (38.8) and steel workers (29.8) all had higher rates of fatal injury.
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For the original report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: