The trucking industry was economically deregulated in 1980. Since then, the rate and the number of fatal truck crashes have both declined drastically. The total number of fatal crashes involving large trucks declined 32%. Fatal crashes per 100 million miles involving large trucks dropped 74%. Trucks now have an overall crash rate that is 29% lower than all other vehicles. Much of this can be attributed to emerging safety technologies and improved data retention. Data driven safety in the trucking industry is paving the way for the lowest fatalities involving trucks in history.

Interestingly, research shows that in almost three quarters of all fatal crashes involving large trucks and trailers and passenger vehicles, the drivers of the other vehicles are at fault. A staggering 90% of fatal head on car-truck collisions are caused by the passenger vehicle crossing the median into the truck’s lane. Trucks are also approximately three times more likely to be hit from behind in two vehicle fatal crashes.

Because of mandatory drug and alcohol testing for truck drivers, the industry violation rate for drivers has been less than 1%. In crashes involving fatalities, only about 2% of truck drivers had blood alcohol levels of .08 grams per deciliter. Compared to all other drivers, these results are very impressive. The percentage of passenger car drivers was 21%. 22% for light truck drivers and 27% for motorcyclists.

Driver fatigue, described as feeling drowsy, sleepy, asleep or fatigued while operating a vehicle, is cited as a factor in only 1.6% of fatal truck crashes. However, experts agree that the role of fatigue is most likely underreported. After reviewing all factors, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) believes that 7% is a more accurate estimate of the number of large truck crashes that are caused by fatigue.

The trucking industry is committed to improving safety. Annually, the trucking industry invests at least $9.5 billion in safety. These investments include safety training, driver safety incentive pay, compliance with safety regulations, and most recently, safety technologies.

Today, powerful new technologies and modern workplace health and safety approaches like Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) are providing companies with a greater ability than ever before to increase employee safety engagement levels across the industry. When an entire workplace buys into safety, great things can happen. If everyone from the CEO to the new local driver comes to work every day knowing how important safety is to themselves and their peers, the number of fatal accidents, injuries and potential injuries inevitably will plunge. However, as any safety manager will tell you, expecting all employees to stay actively engaged in safety awareness is easier said than done. Reliable employees must keep their priorities in order and unfortunately, safety practices are not high on the list when competing with the day to day reality of performing the duties required of the position for which they were hired. Strict ship dates, set supply chain schedules and other factors that directly affect the bottom line, can all impact safety issues negatively. However, by using data that is available in today’s data-driven world, the leaders of today’s carriers are able to look deeper into their operations and recognize patterns that need adjusting before accidents and tragedies can occur.

Data-driven safety gives organizations the proof, the language and the platform to change the boundaries that have been holding them back from becoming transformational leaders. The choices that are made today about which questions to ask, which rules are created and how employees are treated will directly impact their business performance in the future.

Companies need to take an in-depth look at how metrics can be used within this new landscape to improve engagement and drive better safety results.