Truck driver workplace fatalities hit record high in 2017

Truck driver occupational fatalities rose in 2017 to the highest number since at least 2003, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BLS says the 840 truck drivers killed on the job in 2017 represented 77 percent of the 1,084 motor vehicle operators killed on the job last year — the most since it began tracking occupational statistics in 2003. There were 786 truckers killed on the job in 2016.

In total, there were 1,443 fatal injuries in the transportation and material moving occupations in 2017, a nearly 4 percent increase over the 1,388 fatalities in 2016, according to BLS.

BLS’ numbers are in line with those released in October by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA’s numbers showed there were 841 occupants of large trucks killed in crashes in 2017.

Across all occupations in the U.S., there were 5,147 workplace fatalities in 2017, down slightly from the 5,190 reported in 2016.

Other occupations with high fatalities in 2017 were:

Construction – 965 fatalities
Installation, maintenance and repair occupations – 414 fatalities
Management occupations – 396 fatalities
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations – 326 fatalities.

According to the new report, the number of truck drivers who were killed on the job rose from 786 in 2016 to 840 in 2018. This marks a 6.6% increase and is the highest number of truck driver fatalities in a single year on record.



The total number of 2017 fatalities in the Department of Labor’s “Driver/sales workers and truck drivers” category was 987.


These findings pointing towards a frightening uptick in truck driver fatalities are backed up by data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found that deaths caused by large truck crashes reached their highest levels in 29 years in 2017.

Additionally, deaths for all U.S. workers caused by transportation incidents increased from 2077 in 2016 to 2083 in 2017.

Transportation Deaths

The Department of Labor report did not provide any clues as to why truck driver workplace fatalities are on the rise.

Overall, workplace fatalities dipped slightly from 2016 through 2017 for U.S. workers in all occupations.

Trucking stocks are getting whacked and it’s a sign the industry is facing a big slowdown ahead, analyst says

Trucking stocks have been under pressure in recent months, tumbling by more than 20% since September.
Lower demand and a drop in oil prices are starting to “take their toll on trucking-industry pricing power,” according to Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research.
Matthew Young, an equity analyst stated that “It’s become more obvious that freight-demand and pricing gains will slow meaningfully in 2019.”
Trucking stocks have been under pressure in recent months, signaling the industry is facing a big slowdown ahead, an analyst says.

America’s trucking giants have seen their stocks slide by more than 20% since their September peaks, while the S&P 500 has slumped 13.31%. Here’s the scoreboard through Monday, December 17:

Knight-Swift Transportation: -27.17%
JB Hunt Transportation Service: -26.77%
Old Dominion Freight Line: -26.91%
Landstar System: -26.86%
Werner Enterprises: -24.41%

“Market valuations for most trucking and logistics stocks have been correcting,” Matthew Young, an equity analyst at Morningstar, told Business Insider. “It’s become more obvious that freight demand and pricing gains will slow meaningfully in 2019.”
Trucking stocks saw their valuations soar over the past few years, largely due to a favorable pricing backdrop brought on by unusually tight capacity, Young said.
“It’s a tough market out there and we’re all in need of drivers,” said Ellen Behrhorst, a trucker recruiter at Liberty Tire Recycling.
The truck-driver shortage in the US and massive demand from retail giants such as Amazon have added to the difficulty of finding trucks and drivers, giving the industry pricing power.
But the demand for trucking has seen a slight slowdown in the second half of this year amid the ongoing trade war between the US and China, according to Federal Reserve’s Beige Book published in November.

Data from the US Department of Transportation show the growth rate of the US truck tonnage shipped slowed to 5.4% in year-on-year July, down from 10.1% in June, after President Donald Trump’s first round of tariffs took effect. The growth rate bottomed at 5.2% in August and has recovered a bit, an unusual seasonal pattern that the Beige Book says is happening as firms try to import goods before additional tariffs on Chinese goods take effect next year.
And Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, agrees that the trucking industry has already reached a cyclical top, due to the cooling of trucking demand and falling oil prices.
“Lower levels of demand combined with declining oil/fuel prices are beginning to take their toll on trucking industry pricing power,” said Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research.
Oil prices have been under pressure recently, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil down 36.76% from its four-year high of $76.90 a barrel set on October 3. And trucking companies are worried.
“The oil industry in the US is now a significant portion of our economy and we do have customers that are in the oil-field and oil-service industry,” said John Wilbur, CEO of Roadmaster Group, an Arizona-based specialized transportation company, adding that falling oil prices are reducing his company’s customer base in the oil-related industry.

While cheaper oil has helped transportation companies lower their costs, tonnage demand also slows, which may be a bigger problem in the long term, he concluded.