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Is the Trend Toward Safety in the Us Trucking Industry Reversing?

In 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation and tasked with the responsibility of making the trucking industry safer. The FMCSA enacted new regulations pursuant to that goal. Now, almost 15 years later, on the surface it looks like those efforts have paid off. Both the number of fatal crashes involving commercial trucks and the number of injury-causing crashes have been decreased by almost a quarter from their 2000 highs. Yet, by examining the most recent three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the most recent year for which full data is available, an alarming trend is evident: Fatalities and injuries have steadily risen since 2010!

NUMBER OF FATAL CRASHES INVOLVING COMMERCIAL TRUCKS

2000 – 4,995
2001 – 4,823 = 3.4% Decrease
2002 – 4,587 = 5.0% Decrease
2003 – 4,721 = 2.9% Increase
2004 – 4,902 = 3.8% Increase
2005 – 4,951 = 0.1% Increase
2006 – 4,766 = 3.7% Decrease
2007 – 4,633 = 2.8% Decrease
2008 – 4,089 = 11.75% Decrease
2009 – 3,211 = 21.00% Decrease
2010 – 3,494 = 8.8% Increase
2011 – 3,633 = 4.0% Increase
2012 – 3,802 = 4.0% Increase

Overall there has been a 23% decrease from 2000 to 2012—when the FMCSA regulations were first enacted. However, compared to the low of 2009, there were almost 600 additional fatalities in 2012. There is hope that this trend may turn around considering that the three-year period between 2003 and 2005 also saw a steady increase before dropping. However, it is concerning that none of the earlier three-year rises include a percent increase as large as the ones we’ve seen since 2010.

NUMBER OF INJURY-CAUSING CRASHES INVOLVING COMMERCIAL TRUCKS

2000 – 101,000
2001 – 90,000 = 11.0% Decrease
2002 – 94,000 = 4.4% Increase
2003 – 89,000 = 5.3% Decrease
2004 – 87,000 = 2.2% Decrease
2005 – 82,000 = 5.7% Decrease
2006 – 80,000 = 2.4% Decrease
2007 – 76,000 = 5.0% Decrease
2008 – 66,000 = 13.00% Decrease
2009 – 53,000 = 20.00% Decrease
2010 – 58,000 = 9.4% Increase
2011 – 63,000 = 8.6% Increase
2012 – 77,000 = 22.00% Increase

Overall the numbers show a 24% decrease from 2000 to 2012. However, once again the story is much different if you consider the fact that in 2009 there were only a little more than half the fatalities of 2000. That means that nearly half the progress made has been reversed in only the last three years. Worse, the period between 2011 and 2012 alone saw a whopping 22% increase in the number of trucking related injuries.

BIG BUSINESS AND BIG PROFITS

Part of the reason why these recent safety trends are so alarming is because the US trucking industry is huge and steadily getting bigger. That is because the vast majority of the nation’s freight needs are served by the trucking industry as opposed to railroads, ships, and other methods. In 2013, 69.1% of all domestic freight was shipped by truck, which represented an increase on the 2012 figure of 68.5%. In terms of tons, that represented a staggering 9.4 billion tons of freight. This means more big rig trucks on the road and more opportunities for serious accidents.

The commercial trucking industry also boasts high revenue. In 2012 the industry took in $642.1 billion in gross freight revenue. This corresponded to an even higher percentage, 80.7%, of the nation’s total freight expenses. That means that not only are they hauling over two-thirds of the nation’s freight, but they’re even more highly compensated for it. All too often that profit may come at the expense of safety and danger to the general public.

AN ARMY OF TRUCKERS

The trend in fatalities and injuries also corresponds to increases in the size and scope of the trucking industry. The US Department of Labor Statistics has projected that between 2012 and 2022 the number of big rig truck drivers will rise by 11%. Furthermore, as of 2013, there were about 1,585,300 US truckers. Meanwhile there were only 1,369,532 active duty servicemen and women in the armed forces. That means that the United States literally has a larger army of truckers than soldiers. That’s a lot of big rig trucks on the road.

Clay Dugas and Associates understands that the trucking industry is serving a vital need within our economy. However, that economic service absolutely should not come at the expense of human lives and injuries. That is why it is imperative for people who have been injured in trucking-related accidents to stand up for their legal rights, demand compensation, and send the unequivocal message that dangerous driving and risky behavior absolutely will not be tolerated on America’s roads and highways.

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