Seat Belt Use Among Long-Haul Truck Drivers
In 2012, motor vehicle crash fatalities (1,153) accounted for 25% of all occupational fatalities (4,628) in the United States. Of these motor vehicle crash fatalities, 46% of the decedents were truck drivers. In 2012, 2.6 million truck drivers were employed in the United States; 1.7 million drove heavy trucks and tractor-trailers with gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) >26,000 pounds, and another 840,000 drove medium-sized trucks with GVWR between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds.† The majority of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers were long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs), meaning they delivered goods over intercity routes that can span more than one state.
After decreasing to the lowest level ever in 2009, large-truck (GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds 0 occupant deaths have been increasing. In 2012, 697 occupants of large trucks died in crashes, and another 26,000 were injured . About 41% of truck drivers who lost ≥1 work day from a motor vehicle crash in 2012 missed ≥31 days
Federal regulations require drivers of large trucks to wear a seatbelt But at least 35% of the truck drivers who died in 2012 were not wearing a seatbelt). This report estimates the prevalence of seat belt use and identifies factors associated with nonuse of seat belts among LHTDs.
Using a seatbelt has been proven to reduce injury and death in the event of a motor vehicle crash for drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks, and LHTDs are required by federal regulations to use a seat belt
Findings from this survey suggest, however, that approximately 14% of LHTDs never or only sometimes use a seat belt. This, coupled with the fact that 34.9% of LHTDs had been involved in at least one U.S. Department of Transportation recordable crash while working as an LHTD and 11.9% had been involved in two or more crashes, underscores the importance of wearing a seat belt.
Never using a seatbelt was significantly associated with the absence of a primary enforcement seat belt law in the LHTD's state of residence. As more states have added primary enforcement seat belt laws, observed seat belt use for drivers of large trucks and buses also has increased (48% in 2003 to 84% in 2013). Similar findings have also been reported for belt use by auto drivers by state . Belt use among LHTDs might increase further if all states were to adopt primary enforcement belt laws.
Results of this survey also showed a significant association between never using a seat belt and the absence of a written employer safety program. A requirement that drivers and all passengers use their seat belts is an important component of a comprehensive motor vehicle safety management program. Companies can establish and enforce belt-use requirements and give incentives or recognition for compliance or consequences for noncompliance. Involving workers in development and implementation of these programs can increase their effectiveness. In a 2005 survey of truck drivers, 44% reported that their employer imposed no penalties for nonuse of seat belts, and 43% indicated that their employer offered no educational or incentive programs to promote seat belt use. Comprehensive safety programs also can address unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding and other moving violations, both of which were found in this survey to be associated with never using a seat belt.
Engineering and design changes also might increase seat belt use among LHTDs. Previous studies identified personal choice and discomfort related to belt positioning, tightness, range of motion, and rubbing as primary reasons not to wear a seatbelt. It was also reported that seat belts in trucks were uncomfortable for women and shorter drivers. CDC recently collected anthropometric data from a nationally representative sample of 1,950 truck drivers (1,779 males and 171 females). These new data can be used by vehicle manufacturers to develop better fitting and more comfortable seat belt systems. Improvements in belt design might help increase belt use among LHTDs, especially female truck drivers, who were shown in this survey to be more likely than males to never use a seat belt.
In addition to nonuse of seat belts, other risk factors, notably drowsy and distracted driving, have been linked to fatal large-truck crashes.
A case-control study comparing fatal and nonfatal truck crashes using collision reports for 1998–2002 in Kentucky found that the odds of a fatal crash were 8.2 times higher when the truck driver was unbelted, 3.2 times higher when the truck driver was distracted, and 21 times higher when the truck driver was fatigued or fell asleep. In addition to ensuring that truck drivers follow federal regulations that limit hours of driving, employers can help reduce drowsy driving by allowing enough time for regular rest. Employers can provide education to increase drivers' awareness of the impact of long work hours and driving at night on driver fatigue. Free online fatigue management training is available for managers and drivers.