While many people worry about the dangers that tractor-trailers pose to them on the highway, few consider that they aren't the only ones at risk in accidents with large vehicles. In fact, nearly 700 truckers die every year on our nation's highways. This makes driving commercial trucks one of the more dangerous occupations in the United States. It's important to remember the price that truckers pay to keep the country rolling.
The following numbers come from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) "Fatality Facts 2019 State by State" report.
1. Texas - 102 Truck Drivers Killed
Perhaps it's not surprising that Texas leads the list of deadliest states for truck drivers. It is a large state and a major trucking thoroughfare for both east-west traffic from the coasts and north-south traffic to and from Mexico.
Other factors lead to the high number of truckers killed on Texas roads. For instance, Texas has the largest manufacturing and mineral extraction industries in the United States. These industries rely on heavy trucks to produce more products and raw materials. Additionally, Texas highways have higher speed limits relative to other states, and studies show that higher speeds lead to increased fatalities, regardless of vehicle type.
2. California - 44 Truck Drivers Killed
Unsurprisingly, California ranks second in the nation for the number of truck drivers killed. California not only has the largest population in the country (by a significant margin) but also has mountainous terrain, which can lead to problems for inexperienced truck drivers or poorly maintained 18-wheelers.
Some portion of California's lower death rate (relative to Texas) can be attributed to its lower speed limit for larger trucks. The state caps truck and bus speeds at 55 mph.
3. Florida - 31 Truck Drivers Killed
Florida ranks as the 3rd deadliest state for truck drivers in the U.S. While Florida lacks some of the difficult terrains that other states have, it does have a large population and several significant highways. For instance, I-95 and I-75 are major north-south highways, while I-10 is a major east-west thoroughfare.
4. Georgia - 25 Truck Drivers Killed
Despite having a significantly smaller population than Florida, only 6 fewer truckers died on Georgia highways than on Florida's roads in 2019. This is most likely because Georgia is a slightly larger state than Florida, in terms of land area, with significantly more major east-west and north-south interstates.
T-5. Missouri - 22 Truck Drivers Killed
Missouri combines varied, sometimes mountainous terrain with numerous interstates crisscrossing the state. While not the destination for many deliveries, Missouri has a large number of trucks passing through the state on their way to other destinations.
T-5. North Carolina - 22 Truck Drivers Killed
Similar to other states on the list, North Carolina combines a sizeable population with numerous major road links to other parts of the country. I-40, I-85, and I-95 are among the busiest roads for truckers in the United States.
T-5. Tennessee - 22 Truck Drivers Killed
Tennessee has the longest segment of I-40, and the eastern half of the state is some of the most mountainous terrain east of the Mississippi river. It also has many north-transit routes connecting the Midwest with the Deep South.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I do work for a firm that litigates against trucking companies. While many may think that this makes us "anti-trucker," the truth is that we fight against dangerous behavior on our roads, regardless of what kind of vehicle a person drives. In fact, the attorneys at the firm have represented many families of deceased and severely injured truckers against the trucking companies who caused their accidents.