The priority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to make highways safer for both truck drivers and motorists. This is why the FMCSA requires truck drivers to get commercial driver’s license, record their hours of service in a log book, and get inspected by the Department of Transportation. It’s also why truckers have to get DOT physical exams, to ensure they are healthy enough to handle truck driving jobs. Along with all of this regulatory stuff that the FMCSA does, the organization compiles tons of data at the same time. In a recent report the data suggests that certain haul types are more likely to be involved in crashes than others. Find out if your truck driving haul type is causing you to live on the dangerous side.
Big Data and Trucker Safety
The data presented in the report titled “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2014” covers all of the fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2012 to 2014. Also known as big data, this information is key to understanding truck driver safety in a relatively fast fashion. The report breaks down the data very simply according to cargo body type and number and percentage of fatal crashes.
- The haul type that was involved in the most crashes in that three-year period is van or enclosed box trailers.
From 2012 to 2014 that number has decreased from 1,649 to 1,585, making box van trucks involved in 42 percent of crashes in 2014. That sounds like a lot, but it is critical to put this data into context. Dry van truck loads are the most common in the US. More importantly, those numbers are declining, while the number of truck drivers hauling dry van loads is increasing.
Hazards of Hazardous Materials
On the other hand if you are hauling hazardous materials you would think that your chances of getting involved in a crash or trucking fatality would increase. However, according to the data:
- Only 3 percent of trucking accidents that were fatal involved a hazardous materials load.
- The percentage is even smaller for those involved in nonfatal crashes, for which only 2 percent were identified by a hazardous materials placard.
- For those hauling hazardous materials, flammable liquids like oil and fuel are the most dangerous. Forty-nine percent of the 3 percent of fatal crashes involving hazardous materials were associated with flammable materials.
If you break this down, only 1 percent of truck crash fatalities are resulting from hauling flammable liquids. That’s not bad at all considering how dangerous this haul type is, and that goes to show how good truck drivers are at doing their job.
Pulling Singles or Doubles
For the majority of truck drivers in the US for companies like Hunt Transportation, National Strategic Transport, and Purdy Brothers Trucking, it’s all about pulling singles, single trailers that is. However, double trailers are becoming more commonplace in the trucking industry in the US in order to get goods delivered on time. Among those drivers hauling singles versus doubles, you would think that pulling doubles is more dangerous. And you would be mistaken.
- It turns out that single semi-trailers were involved in 63 percent of fatal crashes in 2013.
- As for those truckers pulling doubles, these only accounted for 2 percent of truck accident deaths.
- Some truckers in the US are pulling triples, and the data shows only 0.1 percent of these were involved in a fatal crash.
Again, as with the dry van trailers, the big difference in numbers is due to the sheer volume of singles on the roads. You are far more likely to see a single trailer being pulled than any doubles and definitely triples. What is more important here is that we keep a check on the number of trucking crash deaths that occur in the next few years. Why? As fleets are maxed out and freight demand continues to climb, we can anticipate seeing more carriers and truck drivers hauling doubles and triples. Yet the concern is whether or not this type of haul is safe overall. When you have two trailers being pulled it creates a whole new dynamic for the driver as well. Newbies and rookie drivers simply aren’t cut out for the experience needed to haul these advanced convoys. At the same time, when you can haul twice as much product in half the time, the market beckons for you to pull doubles and triples.
The Bottom Line
As a truck driver use this information to help you be confident in choosing your next trucking job. Understand that truck driving safety begins and ends with you as a driver. Rather than worry about getting into a truck crash, know that the data suggests that no one haul type is more dangerous than the other. It all boils down to the number of truck drivers and hauling types on the road.