Federal law has required professional truck drivers to wear seat belts since 1970, and a record 86% of drivers now use safety belts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported. According to FMCSA, safety belt use remains one of the cheapest, easiest and most important means to protect commercial motor vehicle drivers.
States with “secondary" seat belt laws, which means law enforcement officers may only stop drivers for violations other than not being buckled, have nearly matched states with “primary" seat belt laws where officers can stop and ticket drivers and occupants for simply not wearing a safety belt: 84 percent compared to 85 percent.
FMCSA's most recent survey on safety belts found that regionally, commercial vehicle drivers and their occupants in the West, the Midwest and the South all wore safety belts at a rate of 87 percent. Only in the Northeast region was safety belt usage by truck and bus drivers different and significantly lower at just 71 percent.
Even still, failing to use a seat belt while operating a commercial motor vehicle ranked as the No. 3 roadside driver violation for the 2020 calendar year, according to FMCSA data.
Not only does wearing a seat belt decrease a driver's risk if an accident occurs, failure to wear a seat belt is a seven-point violation of the unsafe driving category of the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said failing to wear a safety belt leads to unnecessary fatalities. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available as of press time, there were 4,951 people killed in crashes involving large trucks, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported.
FMCSA has several tools available for fleets to help encourage use of seat belts, including a sample company safety belt policy and a brochure debunking myths surrounding safety belt use.