FMCSA: Most large truck fatal crashes don’t cite truck driver

March 12, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The number of fatality crashes involving large trucks increased in 2019, but more than 90% of the truck drivers involved in those crashes did not receive a moving violation.

As part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Office of Analysis, Research and Technology Forum on Wednesday, March 10, the agency presented the latest trends in fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Bill Bannister of the FMCSA’s Analysis Division outlined the recent uptick in large truck fatality crashes.

The number of large truck fatal crashes have increased from 4,177 in 2016 to 4,479 in 2019. There has been an increase each year. There were 4,367 fatal crashes in 2017 and 4,461 in 2018.

However, a deeper dive into the statistics shows that large trucks typically aren’t the problem in these crashes.

According to the statistics presented by Bannister, 90.6% of the truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019 did not receive a moving violation. Even more, the truck drivers in these cases had no driver-related factors recorded 67.1% of the time.

“We should note that a little more than two-thirds of the truck fatal crashes have no driver-related factors cited to the truck driver,” Bannister said. “That’s compared to only 40% of passenger vehicle drivers having no factors cited to them.”

The most common driver-related factor attributed to truck drivers was “speeding of any kind” at 7.6%. That was followed by distraction or inattention (5.3%), impairment from fatigue, alcohol or illness (4.7%), failure to yield (4.6%), and careless driving (4.4%). Other factors making up less than 4% included vision obscured by weather or other factors, improper lane use, failure to obey traffic signs, following improperly, and road conditions.

In addition to showing that the majority of the fatal crashes aren’t related to the driving behavior of the trucker, the statistics also question the need for the electronic logging mandate.

The ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017, and strict enforcement began in April 2018. Touted as a way to improve safety, the numbers don’t reflect that. The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks have increased by more than 300 from 2016 (pre-ELD mandate) to 2019.

FMCSA’s four-hour research forum focused on numerous topics, including the future of automation. LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.