29045754 | Pedro Antonio Salaverría Calahorra | Dreamstime
Yellowstone Wyoming Road29045754

Study reveals Wyoming most dangerous for truckers; Michigan safest

May 10, 2023
A recent study that revealed which states have the most dangerous roads raises questions about what fleets can do to ensure their drivers are safe, even if the roads are not.

Using NHTSA crash data, a recent study by Simplex found Wyoming was the most dangerous state for truck drivers. Simplex, a transportation group that offers trucking company compliance solutions, analyzed the NHTSA data to calculate the percentage of large trucks involved in fatal crashes compared to all fatal vehicle crashes per state in 2020.

Of Wyoming's 174 fatal vehicle crashes in 2020, 33 of them involved large trucks. That’s nearly 19% of the state’s total fatal crashes.

Rounding out the top five most dangerous states in this regard were:

  • Idaho (16.33%)
  • Nebraska (15.9%)
  • Iowa (14.4%)
  • North Dakota (13.2%)

Truck drivers traveling through Michigan can breathe a sigh of relief with less than 5% of its fatal crashes involving large trucks.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation reported that nearly 11% of all traffic crashes from 2017 to 2021 involved a large truck, weighing over 10,000 lbs. Large truck-involved crashes resulted in 117 fatal injuries over that span.

WYDOT Deputy Public Affairs Officer Jordan Achs explained that since the state elevation averages at about 6,000' and gets as high as 8,640' in elevation near Laramie, it sees harsh weather, including very strong winds and driving snow. He added that some drivers traveling through the state for the first time might be driving too fast in dangerous weather conditions, with Interstate 80 through southern Wyoming being one of the busiest commercial vehicle corridors in the U.S.

Aside from advising drivers to slow down and discouraging distracted driving, WYDOT provides an online tool that can help CV operators plan ahead and avoid dangerous situations.

“We recommend fleet managers sign up for our Commercial Vehicle Operators Portal on our 511 website, which gives weather and road condition updates and forecasts specifically tailored to commercial vehicles,” he said. “This can help trip planning, especially timing loads around winter storms or high wind warnings.”

WYDOT said they are working on increasing truck parking in the busy areas along I-80, including in Evanston and between Laramie and Rawlins. 

The technology solution

The survey findings offer insight into which states are lagging behind the goal of making roads safer for truck drivers, according to a Simplex representative. 

“It also highlights the need for these states to consider implementing more truck-safe road systems for drivers,” the Simplex official said, adding that the study could alert truck drivers to better prepare when journeying in these particular states.

Shawn Nunley, VP of training at WyoTech, which prepares students for careers as technicians in the automotive and diesel industry, said they rely on telematics to continually monitor vehicle systems so they can catch any problems either before or as they arise. He said this allows shops to put together a preventative maintenance schedule that will head off any problems before they cause catastrophic failure to the truck.

“A low tire will cause poor performance on both dry and icy roads, low engine oil or coolant could cause a major breakdown,” he said. “And let’s not forget that clogged air filters will create even more problems as it affects everything coming in and out of the fuel system.”

Allen Hodges, President and CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association, said a combination of PMs and the right state of mind puts drivers in safe positions on dangerous roads. 

He said it’s important to make sure drivers don’t feel pressure to reach their destination on time when traveling on unsafe roads. 

Roadside truck repairs create additional safety concerns with a driver on the side of the road and a mobile technician called to the scene. Because of this, Hodges said telematics data generated from critical components can provide an early warning through predictive maintenance. 

Read more: Safety on the side of the road

Monitoring engines and tires could allow drivers to address the problem before they enter these dangerous areas and alleviate them having to pull over,” Hodges said.

In the event of an unpreventable crash, Hodges considers dash cams and telematics to be the best tools a trucking company can have in its toolbox. 

“There are so many false claims against drivers,” noted Hodges, who added that dash cams and telematics can exonerate truck drivers. 

The ITA leader also gets a thrill when member fleets tell him about drivers using dash cam footage that shows law enforcement on the scene what really to place.” 

Along with providing evidence at a crash site, Hodges believes dash cams can be another useful tool in gathering unsafe activities that can be used in future safety training. 

Even with telematics and predictive maintenance, human error still occurs on the road. Nunley said now that ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist Systems) have been put into place, collisions can be avoided by equipping trucks with automatic emergency braking, collision warnings, and adaptive steering, but adding that even these systems could be affected by the weather. 

“Ultimately, if the individual behind the wheel chooses to ignore lamp warnings, or simply decides to take a chance with the weather, then there could be a consequence of that choice,” Nunley said. “At some point, a different route, or the decision to pull over and wait for safety crews to do their best to make the roads as safe as possible before allowing access is still the ultimate decision of the driver.”

About the Author

Cris Beaulieu

Cris Beaulieu is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She joined the team after working in local news media. She earned a bachelor’s in journalism at Cleveland State University along with a TV and Radio Broadcast degree at Ohio Media School.