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Truck Driver Death Rate Climbs to 30-Year High

Overall highway safety has improved throughout the years––leading to safer drives and fewer injuries from automobile accidents. Despite this improvement, we’re still seeing more deadly commercial truck accidents

In fact, according to recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, truck crash deaths are at their highest level in more than 30 years. In 2019, truck crash deaths increased for the fourth consecutive year. This trend is alarming, and begs the question: why? Why are commercial truck death rates growing? Why are 18-wheeler crash death rates increasing while most other accident and injury rates are decreasing? 

#1: Trucker Shortages

Shortages in the trucking industry are nothing new. The industry has been facing a deficit for decades that continues to worsen. The trucking industry estimates shortages as high as 50,000 to 60,000 drivers. 

Shortages not only put pressure on current drivers, but can also negatively affect aging drivers facing health issues. Driver shortages create many safety issues, such as failure to remove or discipline bad drivers and excusing unsafe driver conduct. 

#2: Aging Drivers

Along with an overall driver shortage, the trucking industry is also facing a shortage of qualified truck drivers. Many qualified truck drivers are nearing retirement age, which can lead to various health concerns, as well as early fatigue while driving

Some statistics indicate that the average age of commercial truck drivers is 55. Though age does merit experience, this still brings a lot of potential concerns.

#3: Driver Health

Driver health is a major concern and a general safety issue. Health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea can affect driver concentration, fatigue, and reaction times. These health conditions put the driver and every driver on the highway at risk.

Unfortunately, the trucking industry has failed to monitor and address trucker health issues. The industry as a whole has also failed to promote overall driver health through diet and exercise. 

In some places, including Alabama and Georgia, fraudulent medical certifiers have been allowed to put dangerous drivers on our highways. 

#4: Driver Distraction

Distracted driving is a common problem we see in accident reports. It’s a typical scenario––someone was glued to their smartphone and didn’t react fast enough. As common as distracted driving is for everyday commuters, distracted driving is magnified with commercial truckers––and it’s downright dangerous. Large commercial trucks take longer to stop or move, which magnifies the impact of distraction, and destruction. 

Cell phones are not the only distractive electronic device in many large trucks, though. Driver-assist technology, navigation systems, and dispatch equipment are all common electronic devices used by truckers––all equally distracting. 

#5: More Trucks

We have a lot of commercial trucks on our roadways and highways, and the number is only increasing. When an increase of load hauls is paired with poor health, driver distraction, and trucker shortages––a huge safety problem is at hand. 

#6: Driver Miles

In recent years, the number of trucks on the highway has increased. Because of the truck increase, the number of miles driven by truckers has also climbed. 

In the case of a shortage, more trucks on the road sounds like a good idea. However, longer driving routes increase stress and fatigue on drivers and lead to greater isolation and poorer health choices. 

#7: Oversight Negligence

What do we mean by oversight negligence? Day and night industry lobbyists work to prevent or delay important safety improvements from becoming requirements. 

An example of this would be side safety guards on trucks. Side guards have been proven effective for the safety of motorists. Large truck deaths have significantly decreased with the use of safety side guards.  

So why aren’t these devices mandatory for commercial trucks in the United States? The answer is obvious.

We Can Reverse Large Truck Fatalities

To reduce large truck fatalities, we need to grow a safe and healthy truck workforce. We should focus on healthy truck drivers, effective safety equipment, and regulations to make our roadways a safer place for motorists, and our loved ones. 

At Wettermark Keith, we specialize in personal injury and wrongful death cases. We care about you and vow to work hard so that your case can receive the representation it deserves. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Ready to work together? Contact us today for a free consultation.


If you or a loved one have been injured and think you might have a case, call us now for a free consultation.