Large trucks | 2006

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: U.S. 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 over 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 (3): 341-366. 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, in press. 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 4,812 people died in large truck crashes in 2006. Sixteen 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 26 percent overall since 1979, when they were at an all-time high. There has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (45 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (19 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2006

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2006
Year Passenger vehicle occupants Large truck occupants Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians 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 3,584 71 758 15 595 12 5,049
2006 3,422 71 753 16 556 12 4,812
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Ninety-eight percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2006 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2006
Occupant type Deaths %
Passenger vehicle occupants 2,678 98
Large truck occupants 63 2
All occupant deaths 2,741 100

Large trucks accounted for 4 percent of registered vehicles and 7 percent of miles traveled in 20065. Eleven percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2006 occurred in large truck crashes.

Percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths occuring in large truck crashes and other crashes, 2006
Crash type Deaths %
Large truck crashes 4,812 11
Other crashes 37,830 89
All crashes 42,642 100

Seventy-three percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2006 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 28 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes by truck type involved, 2006
Truck type Deaths %
Tractor-trailer 3,518 73
Single-unit 1,333 28
NOTE: More than one large truck may be involved in a single crash and the deaths associated with that crash.

Sixty-seven percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2006 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of occupants in large trucks in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2006
Number of large trucks Deaths %
1 94 33
≥ 2 195 67
Total 289 100

Eleven percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2006 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2006
Crash type Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Single-vehicle 0 0 15,419 100 15,419
Multiple-vehicle 3,422 23 11,601 77 15,023
All crashes* 3,422 11 27,054 89 30,476
*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. 2007. Highway statistics, 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. Available: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs06/pdf/vm1.pdf . and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled declined substantially from 1975 to 2006. The percentage decline in the death rate for large truck occupants (70 percent) exceeded the percentage decline in the rate for passenger vehicle occupants (55 percent).

Vehicle occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2006

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100,000,000 truck miles traveled, 1975-2006
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 222,836 758 0.3 3,584 1.6
2006 223,037 753 0.3 3,422 1.5

Where and when large truck crashes occur

Fifty-nine percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2006 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 29 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 10 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2006
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,397 29
Major roads 2,855 59
Minor roads 480 10
All road types* 4,812 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-five percent of large truck crash deaths in 2006 occurred during the day (6am to 6pm), compared with 46 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and all crashes by time of day, 2006
Time of day Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Midnight-3am 392 8 5,146 14 5,538 13
3am-6am 450 9 3,130 8 3,580 8
6am-9am 733 15 3,484 9 4,217 10
9am-noon 751 16 3,289 9 4,040 9
Noon-3pm 909 19 4,667 12 5,576 13
3pm-6pm 747 16 5,930 16 6,677 16
6pm-9pm 437 9 6,162 16 6,599 15
9pm-midnight 387 8 5,689 15 6,076 14
Total* 4,812 100 37,830 100 42,642 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2006 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, 2006
Day of week Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Sunday 308 6 6,914 18 7,222 17
Monday 766 16 4,465 12 5,231 12
Tuesday 832 17 4,311 11 5,143 12
Wednesday 826 17 4,327 11 5,153 12
Thursday 778 16 4,611 12 5,389 13
Friday 841 17 5,752 15 6,593 15
Saturday 461 10 7,450 20 7,911 19
Total* 4,812 100 37,830 100 42,642 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passeger vehicle crashes

Fifty-three percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2006 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (59 percent) that occurred in rollover crashes and higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in pickups (48 percent) and cars (25 percent) involving rollovers.

Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2006
Vehicle type No rollover Rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Large truck 351 47 402 53 753
SUV 1,996 41 2,821 59 4,817
Pickup 3,120 52 2,829 48 5,949
Car 14,247 75 4,721 25 18,968
All 19,714 65 10,773 35 30,487

Sixty-one percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2006 occurred in single vehicle crashes, compared with 51 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2006
Crash type Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Num % Num %
Single-vehicle 461 61 15,419 51
Multiple-vehicle 289 38 15,023 49
All crashes* 753 100 30,476 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventeen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2006 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 40 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, 2006
Crash type Large trucks Passenger vehicles
Num % Num %
Single vehicle 757 17 18,275 40
Two vehicles 2,823 62 20,934 45
> 2 vehicles 956 21 6,900 15
All crashes* 4,541 100 46,154 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-four percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2006 were using seat belts, compared with 42 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 21 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, 2006
Belt use Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Num % Num %
Belt used 227 34 9,106 42
Unbelted 294 45 10,817 50
Unknown belt use 139 21 1,574 7
Total 660 100 21,497 100

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 5 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2006 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. Thirty-three percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2006 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, 1982-2006
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 663 22 3 21,953 7,104 32
2006 660 34 5 21,497 7,123 33

References