From 2009 to 2012, car accident fatalities dropped 1.74 percent according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The drop was typical of the past 15 years during which fatal crashes fell substantially. NHTSA data indicates that there were 42,013 motor vehicle deaths in 1997 compared to 33,561 in 2012. That decrease occurred despite a nearly 14 percent increase in the total miles driven during that time period.
Recent statistics regarding truck accident fatalities paint a different picture. From 2009 to 2012, fatal truck crashes grew by more than 18 percent, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. NHTSA data indicates that the increase in fatalities happened despite a drop in the total distance traveled by trucks and a drop in the number of trucks on the road. On a per-mile-driven basis, semi trucks are becoming more dangerous.
The American Trucking Associations estimates that overall freight tonnage for trucks will increase 23.5 percent from 2013 to 2025. Federal Highway Administration projections indicate that 330,000 new truck drivers will be needed by 2020. Given that the average age of commercial drivers in the U.S. is 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this means that many new, inexperienced drivers will be needed to fill the growing demand.
The trucks and drivers currently on the road are a matter of concern. The FMCSA reported that more than 20 percent of trucks inspected in 2012 were taken out of service due to violations. Nearly 5 percent of drivers were similarly taken out of service that year. A rapid growth in the industry could challenge the FMCSA's ability to maintain the current level of industry safety.
Source: NBC News, "Truck Accidents Surge, But There's No National Outcry," by Eamon Javers and Jennifer Schlesigner, 30 July 2014