Trucker occupational deaths in 2017 reach highest levels on record

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 12/21/2018

Truck driving consistently ranks in top 10 lists of most dangerous jobs in America. Recently released occupational deaths data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports that. In 2017, more truckers died on the job than any other year since records began in 2003.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, updated to include numbers from 2017. According to BLS, 5,147 fatal work injuries occurred in 2017, down slightly from 5,190 in 2016.

Of all the occupational deaths, more than 16 percent were truck drivers. In 2017, 840 truckers were killed on the job, the most in a single year since BLS began collecting occupational fatality stats in 2003. Accounting for all driver/sales workers and truck drivers, nearly 1,000 deaths occurred, a rate of 26.8 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

The stats reflected in BLS’ report include raw numbers of deaths of all types while on the job and do not indicate fault or events leading up to the fatal injury.

In fact, transportation in general was responsible for the lion’s share of occupational deaths. More than 2,000 of the occupational fatalities were attributed to “transportation incidents,” accounting for more than 40 percent of all deaths on the job. In a distant second was death related to falls, slips and trips at 887 deaths, or approximately 17 percent of all occupational fatal injuries.

Fatal occupational injuries chart

Although truckers accounted for more deaths than most occupations, they only ranked seventh when adjusted for the number of workers in that occupation. Fishers and related fishing workers had the highest fatal work injury rate nearly 100 deaths per 100,000 workers, followed by loggers at 84.3 deaths per 100,000. Among selected occupations, computer/mathematical workers had the lowest rate at 0.2 fatal injuries. For all workers, the fatal injury rate decreased slightly to 3.5 per 100,000 workers.

Civilian occupations with high fatal injury rates CHART

Fatality rates varied across different demographics. Per 100,000 workers, 5.7 men were killed while on the job compared to the significantly lower 0.6 rate among women. Accounting for age, workers 65 years old and over had the highest fatal injury rate at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. The lowest rate among age groups was with the youngest workers at 16 to 17 with a rate of 0.8 deaths. Work deaths among all the ages in between ranged from 2.2 (20-24) to 4.6 (55-64). Rates for workers under 16 years old were not available.

Accounting for race and ethnic origin, fatal occupational injuries were mostly consistent among the demographics with available numbers. Rates for white, black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino workers ranged from 3.2 to 3.7. However, Asian workers experiences a low rate of 1.6.

Self-employed workers were more likely to incur a fatal injury on the job. Among the self-employed, 13.1 per 100,000 were died while at work. Conversely, that fatality rate for wage and salary workers was significantly less at nearly 3 per 100,000 workers.

Alaska and North Dakota were the states with the highest fatal occupational injury rates at 10.2 and 10.1 per 100,000 workers, respectively. Three states tied for the lowest rate of 1.6 fatalities: New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island.



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