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
Year Passenger vehicle occupants Large truck occupants Motorcyclist, bicyclist, and pedestrian deaths Total*
Num % Num % Num % Num
1975 2,757 64 916 21 528 12 4,305
1976 3,071 63 1,100 22 622 13 4,893
1977 3,631 65 1,229 22 653 12 5,614
1978 3,954 64 1,315 21 776 13 6,160
1979 4,226 65 1,372 21 830 13 6,539
1980 3,623 63 1,183 21 844 15 5,740
1981 3,752 66 1,082 19 772 14 5,680
1982 3,447 67 917 18 679 13 5,125
1983 3,615 67 960 18 732 14 5,404
1984 3,712 67 1,040 19 712 13 5,550
1985 3,825 68 941 17 724 13 5,613
1986 3,752 69 892 16 718 13 5,468
1987 3,833 70 821 15 712 13 5,471
1988 3,938 71 886 16 647 12 5,566
1989 3,847 72 822 15 587 11 5,360
1990 3,790 73 684 13 615 12 5,174
1991 3,447 73 650 14 562 12 4,728
1992 3,300 75 580 13 481 11 4,422
1993 3,611 76 590 12 462 10 4,778
1994 3,764 74 658 13 555 11 5,069
1995 3,626 75 634 13 495 10 4,834
1996 3,866 77 602 12 465 9 5,048
1997 3,991 75 717 14 497 9 5,295
1998 3,981 75 739 14 495 9 5,316
1999 3,916 74 747 14 519 10 5,299
2000 3,863 75 737 14 490 9 5,173
2001 3,709 74 691 14 513 10 5,012
2002 3,616 75 675 14 464 10 4,846
2003 3,595 73 703 14 504 10 4,905
2004 3,693 72 743 15 564 11 5,099
2005 3,561 71 759 15 595 12 5,027
*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 type Deaths %
Passenger vehicle occupants 2,771 97
Large truck occupants 72 3
All occupant deaths 2,843 100

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 type Deaths %
Large truck crashes 5,027 12
Other crashes 38,416 88
All crashes 43,443 100

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 type Deaths %
Tractor-trailer 3,694 73
Single-unit 1,399 28
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 trucks Deaths %
1 110 35
≥ 2 206 65
Total 316 100

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 type Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Single-vehicle 0 0 15,398 100 15,398
Multiple-vehicle 3,561 22 12,345 78 15,906
All crashes* 3,561 11 27,761 89 31,322
*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
Year Truck miles traveled
(in millions)
Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Num Rate Num Rate
1975 81,330 916 1.1 2,757 3.4
1976 86,070 1,100 1.3 3,071 3.6
1977 95,021 1,229 1.3 3,631 3.8
1978 105,739 1,315 1.2 3,954 3.7
1979 109,004 1,372 1.3 4,226 3.9
1980 108,491 1,183 1.1 3,623 3.3
1981 108,702 1,082 1.0 3,752 3.5
1982 111,423 917 0.8 3,447 3.1
1983 116,132 960 0.8 3,615 3.1
1984 121,796 1,040 0.9 3,712 3.0
1985 123,504 941 0.8 3,825 3.1
1986 126,675 892 0.7 3,752 3.0
1987 133,517 821 0.6 3,833 2.9
1988 137,985 886 0.6 3,938 2.9
1989 142,749 822 0.6 3,847 2.7
1990 146,242 684 0.5 3,790 2.6
1991 149,543 650 0.4 3,447 2.3
1992 153,384 580 0.4 3,300 2.2
1993 159,888 590 0.4 3,611 2.3
1994 170,216 658 0.4 3,764 2.2
1995 178,162 634 0.4 3,626 2.0
1996 182,971 602 0.3 3,866 2.1
1997 191,477 717 0.4 3,991 2.1
1998 196,380 739 0.4 3,981 2.0
1999 202,697 747 0.4 3,916 1.9
2000 205,791 737 0.4 3,863 1.9
2001 207,686 691 0.3 3,709 1.8
2002 214,603 675 0.3 3,616 1.7
2003 215,884 703 0.3 3,595 1.7
2004 220,811 743 0.3 3,693 1.7
2005 222,836 759 0.3 3,561 1.6

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 type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,572 31
Major roads 2,785 55
Minor roads 495 10
All road types* 5,027 100
*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 day Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Midnight-3am 385 8 5,144 13 5,529 13
3am-6am 474 9 3,015 8 3,489 8
6am-9am 762 15 3,533 9 4,295 10
9am-noon 833 17 3,289 9 4,122 9
Noon-3pm 926 18 4,687 12 5,613 13
3pm-6pm 815 16 6,419 17 7,234 17
6pm-9pm 430 9 6,378 17 6,808 16
9pm-midnight 398 8 5,622 15 6,020 14
Total* 5,027 100 38,416 100 43,443 100
*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 week Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Sunday 304 6 6,748 18 7,052 16
Monday 786 16 4,653 12 5,439 13
Tuesday 875 17 4,230 11 5,105 12
Wednesday 893 18 4,402 11 5,295 12
Thursday 837 17 4,717 12 5,554 13
Friday 861 17 5,985 16 6,846 16
Saturday 471 9 7,670 20 8,141 19
Total* 5,027 100 38,416 100 43,443 100
*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 type No rollover Rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Large truck 381 50 378 50 759
SUV 1,909 40 2,850 60 4,759
Pickup 3,277 54 2,798 46 6,075
Car 14,999 76 4,812 24 19,811

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 type Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Num % Num %
Single-vehicle 442 58 15,398 49
Multiple-vehicle 316 42 15,906 51
All crashes* 759 100 31,322 100
*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 type Large trucks Passenger vehicles
Num % Num %
Single vehicle 766 16 18,255 38
Two vehicles 2,963 62 21,970 46
>2 vehicles 1,009 21 7,321 15
All crashes* 4,744 100 47,574 100
*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 use Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Num % Num %
Belt used 226 34 9,288 42
Unbelted 320 48 11,103 51
Unknown belt use 118 18 1,489 7
Total 664 100 21,880 100

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
Year Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
Num Num % Num Num %
1982 735 123 17 19,663 10,023 51
1983 767 115 15 19,337 9,529 49
1984 859 107 12 20,298 9,378 46
1985 775 84 11 20,057 8,674 43
1986 736 58 8 21,503 9,396 44
1987 686 53 8 22,157 9,343 42
1988 743 66 9 22,884 9,580 42
1989 681 68 10 22,554 9,200 41
1990 570 50 9 21,953 8,973 41
1991 550 39 7 20,551 8,242 40
1992 506 26 5 19,573 7,434 38
1993 504 26 5 20,036 7,328 37
1994 545 36 7 20,644 7,083 34
1995 546 31 6 21,456 7,488 35
1996 525 34 6 21,631 7,336 34
1997 616 19 3 21,702 7,062 33
1998 628 30 5 21,627 6,944 32
1999 631 28 4 21,899 6,994 32
2000 641 28 4 21,819 7,127 33
2001 591 22 4 21,862 7,205 33
2002 582 38 7 22,537 7,381 33
2003 608 23 4 22,200 7,120 32
2004 624 24 4 21,952 6,952 32
2005 664 21 3 21,880 7,117 33

References