Fatal truck crashes have been dropping for the past decade, although the number of truck drivers dying in them has not, according to a webinar conducted today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“For the latest period, 2005 to 2007, there’s been a decline from the 1996-1998 time period of about 5.4%,” said Ralph Craft, senior transportation specialist for the FMCSA Office of Analysis, Research and Technology (ART).

According to Craft, fatality data is analyzed in three-year increments. Fatalities rose from about 4970 to 5310 from 1993-1995 to 1996-1998, but have been dropping in each three-year time period since, down to about 5020 in the 2005-2007 time period.

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Fatal truck crashes have been dropping for the past decade, although the number of truck drivers dying in them has not, according to a webinar conducted today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“For the latest period, 2005 to 2007, there’s been a decline from the 1996-1998 time period of about 5.4%,” said Ralph Craft, senior transportation specialist for the FMCSA Office of Analysis, Research and Technology (ART).

According to Craft, fatality data is analyzed in three-year increments. Fatalities rose from about 4970 to 5310 from 1993-1995 to 1996-1998, but have been dropping in each three-year time period since, down to about 5020 in the 2005-2007 time period.

However, while the total number of fatalities has been declining, the proportion of those fatalities who are truck drivers rose from 13.1% in 2000 to 16.8% in 2007. The number of truck drivers killed in crashes has stayed steady at approximately 800 for the past three years even as the total number fell.

Craft said that there are three ways to report fatal crash statistics—the number of people killed in the crash, the number of trucks involved in the crashes, and the total number of crashes. FMCSA uses the number of people killed, the largest number—since some crashes kill more than one driver—but the American Trucking Assns (ATA) reports the total number of crashes, the smallest number, he noted.

In addition, Craft talked about the significant difference in crash data between combination trucks and single unit trucks. While combination trucks drive approximately 64% of the vehicle miles traveled by truck, they are involved in 74% of the fatal crashes, he said.

Craft also noted that 75% of all fatal truck crashes result from a collision with another vehicle, compared to 58% of passenger vehicles. Of the 75%, 35% are at an angle, 17% are rear end, 15% are head on, and 6% are side swipe.

Cars are far more likely to hit a truck, Craft said. For example, passenger vehicles are more than three times more likely to strike a large truck in a fatal accident than the other way around, while it is 16 times more likely a fatal crash results from a passenger vehicle crossing the center line than a truck crossing the center line.

Although 2008 data will not be available for several months, Craft said that it looks like truck and passenger vehicle crash numbers will be significantly down, in large part because of less vehicles being on the road due to higher fuel prices and the economic recession.