According to figures released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the trucking industry recorded its best highway safety improvement in nearly a decade.

NHTSA's report shows that the number of truck-involved crash fatalities dropped below 5,000 for the first time since 1995. The 2002 toll of 4,897 fatalities marks a 4.2% decline from the 2001 figure.

“This positive news is a tribute to our professional truck drivers and our motor carriers,” said Bill Graves, president & CEO of the American Trucking Assns.

The drop in truck-related highway deaths came as overall traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased from 42,196 in 2001 to 42,815 in 2002. Alcohol-related deaths, motorcycles fatalities, and young driver deaths each showed an increase.