Fatal Trucking Accidents on the Decline

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) and major trucking companies are expressing optimism about the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which reported a 14 percent decline in truck-related highway fatalities between 2008 and 2009.

In 2009, there were 3,380 fatalities from 2,987 accidents involving trucks, as opposed to 4,245 deaths out of 3,754 truck accidents in 2008. According to the CEO of the ATA, 2009 was the safest year for their industry.

Trucking industry groups have long opposed stringent regulations of their industry, but they had to admit that current regulations as well as their own internal safety policies are working.

Trucking fatalities have been on the decline for the past five years, so there are other factors at work. Other industry executives point out that advances in safety technology have played a major role. Roll-stability systems on heavy trailers, lane-departure warnings and collision-avoidance systems are among the latest advances in safety technology.

Many trucking firms are also ordering their drivers to drive slower due to high gas and diesel prices and have implemented improved driver-training programs.

Other experts in trucking safety are unsure about the cause of the steady decline. A spokesperson for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit group, stated that the technology is too recent to account for the decline. In any event, a combination of technological advances, improved internal company policies, slower speeds and better drivers may have contributed to the drop in truck accidents and fatalities.

For motorists, the decline in truck-related deaths can only be welcome news. Passenger vehicles are at a distinct disadvantage to trucks in terms of size, strength, longer time to brake and lack of maneuverability. With improvements in accident prevention and warning systems and stricter regulations regarding driver training and operations, passenger-car drivers can expect that their chances of being in a truck-involved accident will continue to decrease.

Motorists can also protect themselves from accidents with trucks by keeping a safe distance from them, especially when changing lanes or turning at an intersection because of a truck's braking capabilities and turning axis. If a truck is coming up behind them, motorists should move to the next lane. A truck needs a longer distance to brake, so suddenly slowing or braking is unsafe. They should also avoid riding on a truck's, tail since the motorist is unable to see what is in front and because a rear-end collision can be deadly.