Large trucks | 2005

Based on their numbers on the road and on the amount they travel, large trucks (tractor-trailers, single-unit trucks, and some cargo vans weighing more than 10,000 pounds) account for more than their share of highway deaths. Large trucks have higher fatal crash rates per mile traveled than passenger vehicles, although a higher percentage of large truck travel occurs on interstates, the safest roads.

Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants rather than occupants of large trucks. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars.

Truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater when trailers are empty, on wet and slippery roads, or with poorly maintained brakes. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1987. Heavy truck safety study. Report no. DOT HS-807-109. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch and up to 77 hours during a 7-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted. Braver, E.R.; Preusser, C.W.; Preusser, D.F.; Baum, H.M.; Beilock, R.; and Ulmer, R. 1992. Long hours and fatigue: a survey of tractor-trailer drivers. Journal of Public Health Policy 13:341-66. McCartt, A.T.; Hammer, M.C.; and Fuller, S.Z. 1997. Work and sleep/rest factors associated with driving while drowsy: experiences among long-distance truck drivers. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 95-108. Des Plaines, IL: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine. McCartt, A.T.; Hellinga L.A.; and Solomon, M.G. 2005. Work schedules before and after 2004 hours-of-service rule change and predictors of reported rule violations in 2004: survey of long-distance truck drivers. Proceedings of the 2005 International Truck and Bus Safety and Security Symposium, CD-ROM, 33-45. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Trends

A total of 5,027 people died in large truck crashes in 2005. Fifteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 71 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 12 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Large truck crash deaths have declined 23 percent overall since 1979, when they were at an all-time high. There has been a greater percentage decline in deaths among occupants of large trucks (45 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (16 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2005

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2005
YearPassenger vehicle occupantsLarge truck occupantsMotorcyclist, bicyclist, and pedestrian deathsTotal*
Num%Num%Num%Num
19752,7576491621528124,305
19763,071631,10022622134,893
19773,631651,22922653125,614
19783,954641,31521776136,160
19794,226651,37221830136,539
19803,623631,18321844155,740
19813,752661,08219772145,680
19823,4476791718679135,125
19833,6156796018732145,404
19843,712671,04019712135,550
19853,8256894117724135,613
19863,7526989216718135,468
19873,8337082115712135,471
19883,9387188616647125,566
19893,8477282215587115,360
19903,7907368413615125,174
19913,4477365014562124,728
19923,3007558013481114,422
19933,6117659012462104,778
19943,7647465813555115,069
19953,6267563413495104,834
19963,866776021246595,048
19973,991757171449795,295
19983,981757391449595,316
19993,9167474714519105,299
20003,863757371449095,173
20013,7097469114513105,012
20023,6167567514464104,846
20033,5957370314504104,905
20043,6937274315564115,099
20053,5617175915595125,027
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Ninety-seven percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and large truck in 2005 were occupants of the passenger vehicle.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving large truck and passenger vehicle, 2005
Occupant typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants2,77197
Large truck occupants723
All occupant deaths2,843100

Large trucks accounted for 3 percent of registered vehicles and 7 percent of miles traveled in 2005.5 Twelve percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 occurred in large truck crashes.

Deaths in large truck crashes and all crashes, 2005
Crash typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes5,02712
Other crashes38,41688
All crashes43,443100

Seventy-three percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2005 involved tractor-trailers and 28 percent involved single-unit trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes by truck type involved, 2005
Truck typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer3,69473
Single-unit1,39928
Note: More than one large truck may be involved in a
single crash and the deaths associated with that crash.

Sixty-five percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2005 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Occupant deaths in large trucks in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2005
Number of large trucksDeaths%
111035
≥ 220665
Total316100

Eleven percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 22 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2005 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Occupant deaths in passenger vehicles by crash type and large truck involvement, 2005
Crash typeLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Single-vehicle0015,39810015,398
Multiple-vehicle3,5612212,3457815,906
All crashes*3,5611127,7618931,322
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Among vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes, both the rate of passenger vehicle occupant deaths per truck mile traveled Federal Highway Administration. 2005. Highway statistics, 2005. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Available:http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs05/pdf/vm1.pdf. and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled declined substantially from 1975 to 2005. The percentage decline in the death rate for large truck occupants (70 percent) exceeded the percentage decline in the rate for passenger vehicle occupants (53 percent).

Vehicle occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2005

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100,000,000 truck miles traveled, 1975-2005
YearTruck miles traveled
(in millions)
Large truck occupantsPassenger vehicle occupants
NumRateNumRate
197581,3309161.12,7573.4
197686,0701,1001.33,0713.6
197795,0211,2291.33,6313.8
1978105,7391,3151.23,9543.7
1979109,0041,3721.34,2263.9
1980108,4911,1831.13,6233.3
1981108,7021,0821.03,7523.5
1982111,4239170.83,4473.1
1983116,1329600.83,6153.1
1984121,7961,0400.93,7123.0
1985123,5049410.83,8253.1
1986126,6758920.73,7523.0
1987133,5178210.63,8332.9
1988137,9858860.63,9382.9
1989142,7498220.63,8472.7
1990146,2426840.53,7902.6
1991149,5436500.43,4472.3
1992153,3845800.43,3002.2
1993159,8885900.43,6112.3
1994170,2166580.43,7642.2
1995178,1626340.43,6262.0
1996182,9716020.33,8662.1
1997191,4777170.43,9912.1
1998196,3807390.43,9812.0
1999202,6977470.43,9161.9
2000205,7917370.43,8631.9
2001207,6866910.33,7091.8
2002214,6036750.33,6161.7
2003215,8847030.33,5951.7
2004220,8117430.33,6931.7
2005222,8367590.33,5611.6

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Fifty-five percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2005 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 31 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 10 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2005
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,57231
Major roads2,78555
Minor roads49510
All road types*5,027100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-six percent of large truck crash deaths in 2005 occurred during the day (6am to 6pm), compared with 47 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and all crashes by time of day, 2005
Time of dayLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight-3am38585,144135,52913
3am-6am47493,01583,4898
6am-9am762153,53394,29510
9am-noon833173,28994,1229
Noon-3pm926184,687125,61313
3pm-6pm815166,419177,23417
6pm-9pm43096,378176,80816
9pm-midnight39885,622156,02014
Total*5,02710038,41610043,443100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2005 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 38 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and all crashes by day of week, 2005
Day of weekLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday30466,748187,05216
Monday786164,653125,43913
Tuesday875174,230115,10512
Wednesday893184,402115,29512
Thursday837174,717125,55413
Friday861175,985166,84616
Saturday47197,670208,14119
Total*5,02710038,41610043,443100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2005 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (60 percent) that occurred in rollover crashes and higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in pickups (46 percent) and cars (24 percent) involving rollovers.

Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2005
Vehicle typeNo rolloverRolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Large truck3815037850759
SUV1,909402,850604,759
Pickup3,277542,798466,075
Car14,999764,8122419,811

Fifty-eight percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2005 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 49 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2005
Crash typeLarge truck occupantsPassenger vehicle occupants
Num%Num%
Single-vehicle4425815,39849
Multiple-vehicle3164215,90651
All crashes*75910031,322100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixteen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2005 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 38 percent of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes were involved in single-vehicle crashes.

Large truck and passenger vehicle involvement in fatal crashes by number of vehicles involved, 2005
Crash typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Num%Num%
Single vehicle7661618,25538
Two vehicles2,9636221,97046
>2 vehicles1,009217,32115
All crashes*4,74410047,574100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-four percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2005 were using seat belts, compared with 42 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 18 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers, compared with 7 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.

Seat belt use among fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers, 2005
Belt useLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
Num%Num%
Belt used226349,28842
Unbelted3204811,10351
Unknown belt use118181,4897
Total66410021,880100

In contrast with passenger vehicle drivers, large truck drivers killed in fatal crashes rarely have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Truck drivers are subject to strict government regulations concerning drinking and driving. Only 3 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. Thirty-three percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 51 percent in 1982.

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2005
YearLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%
19827351231719,66310,02351
19837671151519,3379,52949
19848591071220,2989,37846
1985775841120,0578,67443
198673658821,5039,39644
198768653822,1579,34342
198874366922,8849,58042
1989681681022,5549,20041
199057050921,9538,97341
199155039720,5518,24240
199250626519,5737,43438
199350426520,0367,32837
199454536720,6447,08334
199554631621,4567,48835
199652534621,6317,33634
199761619321,7027,06233
199862830521,6276,94432
199963128421,8996,99432
200064128421,8197,12733
200159122421,8627,20533
200258238722,5377,38133
200360823422,2007,12032
200462424421,9526,95232
200566421321,8807,11733

References