A necessary component of logging operations is the transportation of goods via trucking. This can introduce a safety concern in wood-producing regions of the United States when interactions take place on highways between logging trucks and the public. Such interactions can result in logging truck accidents, some of them fatal.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Forest Engineering found that between 2011 and 2015, the most recent years for which data was available, there was a 41% increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents involving logging trucks across the United States. As opposed to previous research that analyzed truck accidents in general, this study focused specifically on log truck accidents, compiling regional data as well as analyzing nationwide statistics. The results were sometimes surprising and often alarming.
Nationwide logging truck accident statistics
The study revealed some unexpected facts regarding where, when and under what conditions logging truck accidents tend to happen across the United States. Most fatal logging truck accidents took place during clear weather conditions during daylight hours, suggesting that neither inclement conditions nor poor visibility had been contributing factors in most of them. Only 3.7% of the crashes happened on interstate roadways. State highways were the most common site of logging truck accidents at 46%.
Regional statistics for the Southeast
For the purposes of the study, researchers divided the country into four regions. The Southeast region extended as far west as Texas and Oklahoma and had the greatest number of fatal log truck accidents of any region with 77.5%.
Though the study tracked four different configurations of log trucks involved in fatal accidents, tractor-trailers accounted for 91% of the log trucks involved in collisions in the Southeast. The average age of these trucks was the second highest of those tracked, at 12.6 years.
Most fatal log truck accidents in the Southeast occurred during the latter part of the year, from October to December. January had the fewest number of accidents, and the increase over the course of the year was fairly consistent. The deadliest day of the week for log truck accidents was Wednesday, while the fewest accidents happened on Saturday and Sunday.
The data analyzed for the study was publicly available on the Fatal Analysis Reporting System. This is a crash database from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.