About 65 percent of on-the-job deaths of truck drivers in 2012 were the result of a motor vehicle crash. More than a third of the drivers who died were not wearing a seat belt.
This troubling fact has the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) calling on employers and government agencies to address the lagging level of seat belt compliance among truck drivers.
After dropping to 35-year lows in 2009, the number of crash fatalities of truck drivers or their passengers increased between 2009 and 2012 according to the latest Vital Signs report issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"We know that using a seat belt is the single most effective intervention to prevent injury or death in a motor vehicle crash. However, in 2012 more than 1 in 3 truck drivers who died in crashes were not buckled up, a simple step which could have prevented up to 40 percent of these deaths "said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, Ph.D. “Employers and government agencies at all levels can help improve truck driver safety and increase seat belt use among truck drivers by having strong company safety programs and enforcing state and federal laws."
Motor Vehicle Safety Program: All employers - long-haul trucking companies, local service businesses with vehicle fleets and even small employers with drivers – everyone benefits from implementing driver safety programs that prevent accidents and injuries which, in turn, reduces claims and insurance premiums for Workers Compensation and Commercial Auto policies. To assist employers, NIOSH has a fact sheet and checklist on how to create a Motor Vehicle Safety Program.
Key findings in the report include:
- An estimated 14 percent of long-haul truck drivers reported not using a seat belt on every trip.
- Over one-third of long-haul truck drivers had been involved in one or more serious crashes during their driving careers.
- Long-haul truck drivers who reported not wearing seat belts also tended to engage in other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding and committing moving violations. They were also more likely to work for an employer that did not have a written workplace safety program.
- Long-haul truck drivers who lived in a state with a primary seat belt law – the law that allows police to stop motorists solely for being unbelted – were more likely to report often using a seat belt.
What can be done to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths among truck drivers?
- States can help increase seat belt use by truck drivers through high-visibility enforcement of seat belt laws by state troopers and motor carrier safety inspectors.
- Employers can establish and enforce company safety policies, including belt-use requirements for truck drivers and passengers as well as bans on text-messaging and use of handheld phones.
- Employers can educate truck drivers about ways to avoid distracted and drowsy driving.
- Engineering and design changes that provide increased comfort and range of motion and allow adjustments for diverse body types might increase use of seat belts by truck drivers.
For more information on motor vehicle safety at work, including trucker safety, please visit the NIOSH Motor Vehicle Safety page. Released in conjunction with this month’s Vital Signs is the NIOSH Long-Haul Truck Drivers page. Both these topic pages offer research results, resources, and useful links for employers and workers.
Source: NIOSH, News Release – March 3, 2015. Vital Signs: Trucker Safety