Transcript for CDC Telebriefing: What actions could reduce 40% of death and injury among truck drivers?

Press Briefing Transcript

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 12:00 E.T.

Please Note:This transcript is not edited and may contain errors.

OPERATOR: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in listen-only mode. During the question and answer session of today’s call, you may press star 1 to ask a question. Today’s conference is being recorded and at this time I’d like to turn the call over to Mr. Benjamin Haynes, you may begin, sir. 

BENJAMIN HAYNES: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for today’s Vital Signs briefing on reducing injuries, deaths, and motor vehicle crashes among truck drivers. We are joined by the Principal Deputy Director, Dr. Ileana Arias and NIOSH’s Dr. Stephanie Pratt, the study’s author. Doctors Arias and Pratt will provide opening remarks before taking your questions. I now turn it over to Dr. Arias. 

ILEANA ARIAS: Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining us to discuss this month’s vital signs report. As you know, each month we focus on the latest data about one of the critical health issues facing our nation and more importantly, what can with done about it. Today, we’re going to discuss findings from a new CDC vital signs study that focuses on 2.6 million workers in the United States who drive large trucks for work, and those individuals use of seat belts. I want to point out that large trucks are not just tractor-trailers, which is what we usually think of when we hear the words large trucks, they also include vehicles such as dump trucks, delivery trucks, heavy duty pickup trucks, and fire trucks. Our nation depends on truck drivers to safely and efficiently deliver goods and provide services. Seat belt use among drivers of large trucks has actually increased over the last decade. Yet, we found that too many truck drivers are still risking injury and death by not buckling up. The fact that not all truck drivers use their seat belts is incredibly troubling. Truck drivers spend far more time on the road and drive far more miles than other motorists. This is particularly true for long haul truck drivers whose routes may span several states. To put it in perspective, the average passenger car was driven 10,800 miles in the year 2012. A CDC survey however found that on average, long haul drivers reported driving their trucks 108,000 miles in the past year. That’s ten times as many miles as the average passenger car driver. According to the vital signs report that we are releasing, nearly 700 truck drivers and their passengers died in a motor vehicle crash in 2012. And another 26,000 were injured. Crashes are the leading cause of on the job deaths for truck drivers in the U.S. In fact, 65 percent of the truck drivers who’ve died on the job in 2012 died in a motor vehicle crash. Using a seat belt is the single most effective way to prevent truck drivers from being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash. Yet, many truck drivers are not using their seat belt on every trip. In 2013, about one in six drivers of large trucks in the U.S. was observed not wearing a seat belt. More than a third of the truck drivers who died in crashes in 2012 were not buckled up. This is incredibly concerning because the simple act of buckling up could have prevented up to 40 percent of these deaths. Truck crashes, not only are limited in terms of their negative impact to those drivers, but they also affect public health safety generally in the economy. Over 300,000 crashes of large trucks were reported to the police in 2012. For each driver, or passenger in a large truck who died, about six other people, including occupants from other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists died as a result of truck crashes. Crashes of large trucks and buses cost the U.S. economy an estimated $99 billion in 2012. To share more information about how truck crashes and resulting injuries and deaths can be prevented to increase seat belt use and other measures, I’ll now turn to Dr. Stephanie Pratt. 

STEPHANIE PRATT: Thank you, Dr. Arias and thanks for everyone joining us today. As Dr. Arias pointed out about one in six truck drivers in the United States doesn’t use a seat belt. Federal regulations that require truck drivers to use seat belts have been in place since 1970 or earlier than state seat belt laws for passenger vehicles. Yet, it is only within the last five years or so that seat belt use percentages for truck drivers has increased, such, that they are approaching those for the general population. In our survey of long haul truck drivers, 35 percent reported having been involved in at least one serious truck crash at some time during their careers. A serious crash here is one that results in fatality, injury, or enough property damage that the vehicle has to be towed away. This high potential for injury or death underscores the importance of truck drivers being belted all the time. Not using a belt has been shown to be linked to a number of factors. Long haul truck drivers who reported they never wore a seat belt while driving a truck also tended to report other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding or being ticketed for moving violations such as running a red light. And this is compared to drivers who wore a belt at least some of the time. Truck drivers who never wore seat belts were also more likely to work for a company that didn’t have a written workplace safety program in place and to live in a state without a primary enforcement belt law. Primary enforcement seat belt law allows a police officer to pull over and ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing a seat belt, even if this is the only violation the officer sees. Using a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent injury or death in the event of a crash. We also need to direct our efforts though to preventing truck crashes from occurring in the first place. The federal government, states, and employers play a role in preventing truck crashes and the injuries and deaths that may result. First, the federal government requires drivers of large trucks to wear seat belts. It limits the number of hours a truck driver can drive and be on duty in a day, and it prohibits truck drivers from text messaging or using a hand-held cell phone while driving a truck among many other regulations. States can help keep truckers and other motorists safe through targeted enforcement of primary seat belt laws and federal trucking safety regulations with coordination between state police and state and federal inspectors who enforce the trucking safety regulations. Employers can commit to driver’s safety at the highest level of leadership and establish comprehensive driver safety programs that include a requirement that everyone in the truck buckle up. Driver safety programs should also include policies to reduce other known risks. For example, bans on text messaging and using hand-held cell phones while driving. Employers also can educate truck drivers about the benefits of using a seat belt on every trip and ways to avoid crash risks such as distracted and drowsy driving. In addition, research has shown that involving workers in group discussions to develop solutions to motor vehicle safety problems can reduce crash rates in company vehicle fleets. 

BENJAMIN HAYNES: Thank you Dr. Pratt. We have time for a few questions. 

OPERATOR: At this time we are ready to begin the question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press star 1, and record your name clearly. Again, press star 1 to ask a question, and one moment please, our first question. And our first question from Eben Brown with Fox News Radio, go ahead with your question. 

EBEN BROWN: Good afternoon, and thank you for doing the call. Why, can you extrapolate on the public health issues of this? I mean obviously, you know, we’ve been told for decades to wear our seat belts, but, you know, why, why is this warning coming out now or this message coming out now from CDC? What’s the greater impact? 

ILEANA ARIAS: Thanks for that question. We have invested quite a bit in drawing attention to leading causes of death for Americans in the U.S. and of course motor vehicle fatalities are one of those. Typically, the focus has been in the interest and reaction to our messaging has been to focus on passenger vehicle drivers. There has been a neglect of truck drivers and as you can tell from the numbers that have been quoted in terms of their use of seat belts and then the injuries and fatalities associated with those crashes who were taking the opportunity to draw attention to part of the American public that has not been as responsive to efforts to engage in the appropriate use of seat belts and make sure that they are as safe as everybody else on the road is. 

EBEN BROWN: Thank you. 

OPERATOR:  Thanks, again if you have a question, press star 1. Our next is from Mike Stobbe with the Associated Press, you may ask your question. 

MIKE STOBBE: Thank you for taking my question. And I apologize if the answer’s in the report and I just didn’t see it. Dr. Pratt mentioned that only in the last five years has seat belt use increased to the point where it approaches that of the general population. What was the rate for the general population in the most recent year? I guess it was 2010. 

STEPHANIE PRATT: The rate for the general population was 87 percent for — actually it is for passenger vehicles. And the rates of truck drivers of 84 percent. And that was in 2013 because our, the latest observational study of belt use among truck drivers was conducted in 2013 and for comparison, the 87 percent for passenger vehicle occupants comes from the same year. 

MIKE STOBBE: Thank you. 

STEPHANIE PRATT: However there’s been substantially greater increase in belt use among truck drivers in the last decade. The data from a study in 2003 showed that only 48 percent of truck drivers were wearing their seat belts and with substantial efforts on the part of the federal motor carrier safety administration in partnership with trucking companies, there has been a great deal of outreach in that to the industry, and that has helped to increase belt use, and as well, I’ll point out that in our survey, we found that the drivers who never used a belt were more likely to live in a state that didn’t have a primary enforcement belt law. So if we turn that around, there is a possibility that having a state belt law might have also had a spillover effect in helping to increase belt use among truck drivers. 

MIKE STOBBE: Do you know what the rate was a decade ago for passenger vehicles? 

STEPHANIE PRATT: I do not have that data in front of me. 


STEPHANIE PRATT: We can provide it. In followup. 


BENJAMIN HAYNES: We have time for one more question. 

OPERATOR: We’d like to make sure there are no further questions. Again, if you have a question, just press star 1 at this time. 

ILEANA ARIAS: Thank you very much for joining us. The bottom line is that seat belt use matters and it matters for truckers as well as it does for passenger car drivers. Buckling up on every trip is the most effective way for truck drivers and their passengers to avoid injury or death in a crash. Strong programs by employers help increase seat belt use and prevent costly crashes. The government at all levels can support safety by enforcing laws and regulations. We all have a part to play in keeping safe on the road. And today, we’re calling on employers and truckers to prioritize being safe and buckling up. 

BENJAMIN HAYNES: Thank you, Dr. Arias. This is going to conclude today’s briefing. Please visit for more on the study. A transcript will be available at and if you have further questions, please call 404-639-3286 or e-mail 

OPERATOR: Thank you. This does conclude today’s conference. We thank you for your participation. At this time you may disconnect your line.  


Page last reviewed: March 3, 2015