December 19, 2014 3:00 PM, EST

Fatalities From Large-Truck Crashes Up Just Slightly in '13, Says NHTSA Report

Injuries, Occupant Deaths Decline
U.S. fatalities from crashes involving large trucks increased by 0.5% in 2013, rising to 3,964 from 3,944 people the year before, according to a Dec. 19 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although the increase was small, it marked the fourth straight jump in annual large truck-involved fatalities since hitting a low point in 2009, according to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System data.

The number of injuries in large truck-related crashes declined to 95,000 in 2013, from 104,000 in 2012.

Despite the slight uptick in large-truck-involved fatalities, in 2013, the number of overall highway deaths declined to 32,719 people, compared with 33,782 traffic deaths in 2012 — a 3.1% drop.

Likewise, the estimated number of people injured in overall crashes declined by 2.1%.

The number of large-truck occupants killed in 2013 decreased by 0.9%, to 691 from 697 the prior year.

However, the number of nonoccupants killed during a large-truck crash increased by 13%, to 439 in 2013 from 390 in 2012; while the number of other occupants killed in a large-truck crash declined by 0.8%.

“To fully understand these figures, we must put them in the context of exposure — in this case, vehicle mileage, so therefore we look forward to the release of annual mileage figures, later this year, to get a meaningful understanding of highway safety trends,” said Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations. “We are also hopeful that the recent suspension of the hours-of-service restart restrictions — which were implemented in 2013 — will result in future safety improvements.”

Graves said that FMCSA’s own field study showed the hours restart restrictions raise crash risk by putting more trucks on the road during daytime hours when crash risk is higher.

“The agency later acknowledged that this impact was not considered when the restrictions were developed and implemented,” Graves said.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it was “unfortunate” that despite declines in truck-crash occupant deaths, there was an overall increase in crashes involving large trucks.

“The department continues to be focused here,” Foxx said in a Dec. 19 telephone news conference. “That’s one of the reasons why you will expect to see a series of steps that we’re taking, including things like stability controls in trucks and underride guards, that will support better safety in trucks.”