Transportation-related incidents were the leading cause of workplace fatalities in 2015—and by a long way—according to data just-released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Of the total 4,836 workplace fatalities recorded in 2015, transportation-related incidents accounted for 2,054, or 42 percent.
The next closest major cause of workplace fatalities was falls, slips, and trips at 800, or 17 percent.
A key takeaway from the BLS figures: some 745 drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks died because of injuries at work last year, more than any other major civilian occupation. The majority of these fatalities (84 percent) were caused by transportation incidents.
What are some of the factors in large truck crashes?
Truck braking capability for one. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes.
Truck driver fatigue is another known crash risk. Federal regulations allow drivers of large trucks to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch, and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period.
Still surveys suggest many drivers violate the regulations and work longer hours than permitted.
Distracted driving is another key factor impacting the number of accidents.
As for insurers, a recent report by ratings agency A.M. Best noted that commercial auto insurance results continue to underperform the results of the overall property/casualty commercial lines market, due to escalating claim frequency and severity.
With more vehicles on the road, cumulative miles driven increasing, and gas prices at reduced levels, making a profit writing commercial auto insurance is a challenge few insurers have been able to meet, A.M. Best said.
It pointed to the considerable perils associated with larger vehicles, including trucks and buses, noting:
“The increased number of miles traveled over the last three or four years also factors into the rise in the fatalities associated with accidents involving larger vehicles that often produce losses exceeding $100,000 in total claim cost.”
Despite the myriad challenges, leading writers of commercial auto insurance have a track record of profitable operations, according to A.M. Best.
Still, more effective risk management and underwriting techniques focused on both covered drivers and vehicles are needed, the ratings agency said.
The Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program implemented in 2010 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, together with state partners and the trucking industry expanded safety reporting and enforcement measures for large trucks and buses.
Check out the Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on workplace safety.