Based on preliminary findings, the 2005 large truck fatality rate, as tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), could set a record low.

On the basis of incomplete data, the federal safety agency yesterday projected that the number of persons killed in large truck crashes increased to 5,226 in 2005, compared with 5,190 in 2004. Although this would mark a 0.7% increase over 2004, the 3.5% expansion of the U.S. economy in 2005 implies that growth in the number of truck miles traveled expanded as well. If the number of truck miles grew at a percentage higher than that of fatalities, the fatality rate would drop lower than the 2004 rate.

NHTSA determined in 2004 there were 1.96 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled by large truck, making it the safest year for over-the-road trucking since the agency started collecting the data in 1975. A 2005 rate cannot be determined until it receives the total number of truck miles traveled.

See Large-truck fatality rate falls.

“That number doesn’t surprise me, but it’s preliminary to talk about [overall truck safety] without knowing the [final] fatality rate,” Bob Inderbitzen, director of safety & compliance for National Private Truck Council told FleetOwner. “It is a sure thing to say there was a huge number of truck miles traveled in 2005.”

The federal government and the trucking industry typically gauge overall truck highway safety based on the yearly fatality rate. What’s even more encouraging is that NHTSA expects the total number of persons injured in truck crashes to drop significantly. For 2005, the agency projects a 7.8% drop to 107,000 from the 116,000 seen in 2004.

Not all of NHTSA’s findings are positive, however. The fatality rate for all vehicles is expected to increase to 1.46 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2005, compared to 2004’s record low of 1.44.

To view the report, go to www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/PPT/2006/810583.pdf.