Even though federal law has required professional truck drivers to wear seat belts since 1970, one in six still fails to buckle up. Those numbers result in unnecessary fatalities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during its recent teleconference, Keeping Truckers Safe on the Road. In 2012, 697 truckers died in crashes and 26,000 were injured, the CDC reported.
During the presentation, Dr. Stephanie Pratt said that 35 percent of truckers who died in 2012 crashes had skipped seat belts, but up to 40 percent would have lived if they had buckled up. "The problem is that 65 percent of the truck drivers who die on the job, die in a motor vehicle crash. We've seen recent increases in the deaths of large truck occupants," she said.
Safety Starts at the Top
According to Pratt, drivers who never wore their belts were also more likely to work for an employer that didn't have a written safety program and to report having had at least one moving violation in the past year.
Pratt said employers can encourage safety by establishing a comprehensive driver safety program, which has several benefits.
Not only does failing to wear a seat belt increase a driver's risk if an accident occurs, it represents a seven-point violation of the unsafe driving category of the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. Fleet owners may want to focus on a seat belt campaign, particularly as summer approaches.
"Don't Shed the Seat Belt in Summer," a report from the data analysis company Vigillo, has found that citations for failure to use seat belts tend to peak in the summer and fall in the winter. The report, which reviewed data from 2013 and 2014, found two peak periods existed—July to August 2013 and May through September 2014. The period with the fewest seat belt tickets ran from December 2013 to February 2014, with approximately 3,000 violations per month.
Steven Bryan, chief executive officer of Vigillo, said that Pennsylvania is the most aggressive state in issuing seat belt tickets to truck drivers, writing more than 10,000 tickets per month. In comparison, no other state issued more than 6,000.
Bryan said most of the violations were issued during roadside inspections where suspect vehicles were pulled over by law enforcement. Others were issued during inspections at fixed sites, such as weigh stations.