US traffic-trucker deaths plunge in ’09

WASHINGTON – Truck-involved traffic fatalities and injuries fell 20 percent in 2009 to the lowest level in recorded history.

Highway deaths, specifically, fell to the lowest number since 1950.

Although there may have been fewer vehicles on the road in recession plagued 2009, the latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and NHTSA data show that estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2009 increased by 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.

The largest fatality and injury declines, once again, were truck drivers. The number of truck occupant deaths fell from 682 in 2008 to 503 last year (-26%) while the number of truck occupants injured also declined 26 percent.

"This significant gain in commercial truck safety shows that ongoing enforcement efforts and our partnerships with state and local law enforcement are making a difference," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

Of course, as truck regulators always automatically add when data shows truck safety significantly improves each year: "Yet, FMCSA will not rest until there are zero commercial truck-related fatalities on our roads. We are committed to using every resource available to strengthen commercial truck safety and save lives."

In a press release, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves credited the hours of service regulations that were implemented in 2004 as contributing to the dramatic drops in crash rates.

"Greater rest opportunities for drivers under the 2004 hours-of-service rules and a more circadian-friendly approach to a driver’s work-rest cycle have helped truck drivers achieve these exceptional results," said Graves.

Ironically, special interest groups like Public Citizen and the Teamsters union last year convinced the FMCSA to replace those rules.

The groups have long claimed, with virtually no evidence, that the current HOS rules actually make trucks on the highway more dangerous.

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