FMCSA releases pocket guide full of industry stats

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 9/4/2018

Every year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases a pocket guide that includes a variety of stats for large trucks and buses. FMCSA recently released this year’s version, which includes information about inspections, investigations, crashes and general information about the trucking industry.

The 2018 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics states that the primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. To do this, the agency develops and enforces data-driven regulations. The pocket guide is a glimpse of some of that data.

To enforce regulations, state and federal agencies conduct inspections. Last year, nearly 3.5 million inspections were conducted, up more than 50,000 from the previous year, but down more than 56,000 from 2013. More than 96 percent of inspections were conducted by state inspectors, with federal inspectors picking up the rest. The number of inspectors has steadily declined since 2014, with 12,613 safety inspectors in 2017.

The map below shows which parts of the country have a high or low number of inspections. Southern California and parts of southern Texas conducted large numbers of inspections. Conversely, most of the Midwest conducted a relatively small number of inspections.

Number of inspections by community across the U.S.

Although fewer inspections are being conducted, the out-of-service rate is increasing. More than 3.3 million driver inspections were conducted in 2017 with an OOS rate of 5.12 percent. Despite the fact there were 55,000 more driver inspections in 2013, the OOS rate was only 4.86 percent. The vehicle OOS rate during vehicle inspections was 20.74 percent in 2017, up from 19.9 percent in 2013.

Of the more than 3.4 million inspections conducted last year, there was a relatively even spread of Level I, II and III inspections at 1.038 million, 1.236 million and 1.065 million, respectively.

The most frequent driver violations in 2017:

  • Log violation (general/form and manner) – 170,721 violations
  • Driver’s record of duty status not current – 71,004 violations
  • Speeding 6-10 mph over the speed limit – 66,930 violations
  • Failing to use seat belt – 62,324 violations
  • Driving beyond 8-hour limit since end of the last off-duty or sleeper period (a violation of the mandatory 30-minute rest break) – 51,149 violations

Most frequent vehicle violations:

  • Operating a vehicle not having the required operable lamps – 488,895 violations
  • Clamp/roto-chamber types brakes out of adjustment – 181,145 violations
  • Operating without periodic inspection – 166,847
  • Inspection/repair and maintenance parts and accessories – 148,816 violations
  • Oil and/or grease leak – 138,399 violations

In addition to inspections, FMCSA also conducts investigations. Of the 15,000 investigations conducted last year, 57 percent were federal while the remaining 43 percent were state.

More than 86 percent of interstate freight carriers had no safety rating on record. Approximately 10 percent had a “satisfactory” rating, 3.5 percent had a “conditional” rating and less than one percent had an “unsatisfactory” rating.

New entrant safety audits have been declining since 2014. Last year, more than 35,000 new entrant safety audits were conducted, down more than 2,000 from the previous year and a decrease of more than 4,000 audits compared with 2014. A new entrant is a motor carrier that applies for a USDOT number in order to initiate operations in interstate commerce.

Crash data was also included. Those numbers, which were released separately in May, can be found here.

General trucking stats

In 2016, the latest data available, there were nearly 11.5 million trucks registered in the U.S., almost 1 million more than in 2013. Vehicle miles traveled also have increased in that time frame. Nearly 287.9 billion vehicle miles traveled were logged by large trucks in 2016, an increase of nearly 13 billion vehicle miles traveled.

Last year, there were 3.2 million interstate CDL drivers, accounting for more than half of all commercial motor vehicle drivers operating in the United States. Those truckers drove for at least one of the nearly 512,000 active motor carriers hauling interstate freight.

Of the more than 540,000 total FMCSA-regulated carriers in 2017, more than 485,000 had 10 or fewer power units, accounting for nearly 90 percent of all carriers. In fact, just under half of all carriers have only one power unit. Carriers with more than 100 power units make up less than 1 percent of the industry.

According to the pocket guide, there were more than 57,000 medical examiners certified on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners in February 2018. The map below shows the distribution of those examiners.

Distribution of Certified Medical Examiners in U.S.




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