Fatal work injuries among truckers hit record high last year

December 23, 2020

Tyson Fisher


Even before the pandemic, trucking has always been a dangerous job. According to new government data, last year was the deadliest for drivers/sales workers and truckers on record for that category.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2019, there were 5,333 fatal work injuries last year, a 2% increase from 2018. That is also the most fatal work injuries since 2007.

For those who drive for a living, the situation was even worse. There were more than 1,000 fatal work injuries among drivers/sales workers and truckers, the most since the bureau began tracking that series in 2003. Nearly one of every five fatally injured workers was a driver/sales worker or trucker. More than 80% of those deaths occurred with heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

Of the 843 fatal work injuries among truckers, more than three-quarters were transportation incidents. The remaining causes:

  • Contact with objects and equipment (7%).
  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals (5%).
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments (4.5%).
  • Falls, slips and trips (4%).
  • Fires and explosions (1%).

Last year also saw the most fatal work injuries among heavy/tractor-trailer drivers since 2002, when there were 852 deaths.

However, government data did not begin separating heavy truck drivers and light truck drivers into different categories until 2003.

Although professional drivers account for among the highest occurrences of fatal work injuries, they rank only seventh when adjusting the rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. With that adjustment, the most fatal occupations are fishing/hunting workers (145 per 100,000), logging workers (69), aircraft pilots/flight engineers (62), roofers (54) and helpers/construction trades (40).

Accounting for event type, transportation incidents across all industries increased by 2% to more than 2,100 cases, the most since that data has been collected. Transportation incidents are the leading cause of fatal work injuries. Falls/slips/trios, exposure to harmful substances/environments and unintentional overdoses all increased. Unintentional overdoses have been increasing every year since 2014.

According to the report, a worker was killed from a work-related injury every 99 minutes last year. Fatal work injuries among those 55 and older increased by 8% to 1,863, the highest on record. Hispanic or Latino worker fatalities were up 13% to 1,088, also a record high.

Last year’s report yielded similar results. In 2018, driver/sales workers and truck drivers had the most fatalities compared with other groups with 966 deaths. LL