Saying that less than 50 percent of truck drivers use seatbelts, the Department of Transportation and several trucking associations began a campaign Dec. 9 to get truckers to buckle up.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, speaking at a Roadway Express terminal in Atlanta, cited a 2002 federal study of truck drivers in which researchers observed thousands of Class 7 and 8 drivers.
“It is puzzling to me why professional truck drivers are among the least likely to wear safety belts when they are behind the wheel,” said Mineta, who was flanked by several trucking groups, a U.S. Congressman and a truck driver. “Their risk is higher simply because they spend so much more time than the rest of us on the road. There seems to be a myth out there that the big rig itself will provide all the safety that is needed so that there is no point in wearing a safety belt. The facts suggest otherwise.”
Mineta said that of the 588 truck drivers who lost their lives in crashes in 2002, half were not wearing their seatbelts; only 20 percent of the 178 drivers ejected in crashes last year had seatbelts on.
“If we look at the fatality statistics for truck drivers, a lot of them are ejected or are killed in rollover accidents because they are not buckled up,” said Annette Sandberg, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The study, completed in November, found that while only 48 percent of truckers use seatbelts, the disuse was more pronounced among local haulers in single-trailer dump trucks. Only 26 percent of those drivers used their seatbelts. But the highest rate of use amongst any group of truckers, hazardous material haulers, was still only 67 percent – 12 percentage points less than the national average for motorists.
Ralph Hamilton, a driver for Old Dominion Freight Line, said truckers he encounters don’t wear seatbelts because they don’t think they’ll help them in a crash. “To me, [safety belts] do only one thing – they save lives,” Hamilton said.
The American Trucking Associations, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Motor Freight Carriers Association and the National Private Truck Council will join the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in promoting safety belt use among truckers.