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
YearPassenger vehicle occupantsLarge truck occupantsMotorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestriansTotal*
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
20053,5847175815595125,049
20063,4227175316556124,812
*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 typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants2,67898
Large truck occupants632
All occupant deaths2,741100

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 typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes4,81211
Other crashes37,83089
All crashes42,642100

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 typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer3,51873
Single-unit1,33328
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 trucksDeaths%
19433
≥ 219567
Total289100

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 typeLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Single-vehicle0015,41910015,419
Multiple-vehicle3,4222311,6017715,023
All crashes*3,4221127,0548930,476
*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
YearTruck miles traveled in millionsLarge 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
2005222,8367580.33,5841.6
2006223,0377530.33,4221.5

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 typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,39729
Major roads2,85559
Minor roads48010
All road types*4,812100
*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 dayLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight-3am39285,146145,53813
3am-6am45093,13083,5808
6am-9am733153,48494,21710
9am-noon751163,28994,0409
Noon-3pm909194,667125,57613
3pm-6pm747165,930166,67716
6pm-9pm43796,162166,59915
9pm-midnight38785,689156,07614
Total*4,81210037,83010042,642100
*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 weekLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday30866,914187,22217
Monday766164,465125,23112
Tuesday832174,311115,14312
Wednesday826174,327115,15312
Thursday778164,611125,38913
Friday841175,752156,59315
Saturday461107,450207,91119
Total*4,81210037,83010042,642100
*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 typeNo rolloverRolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Large truck3514740253753
SUV1,996412,821594,817
Pickup3,120522,829485,949
Car14,247754,7212518,968
All19,7146510,7733530,487

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 typeLarge truck occupantsPassenger vehicle occupants
Num%Num%
Single-vehicle4616115,41951
Multiple-vehicle2893815,02349
All crashes*75310030,476100
*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 typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Num%Num%
Single vehicle7571718,27540
Two vehicles2,8236220,93445
> 2 vehicles956216,90015
All crashes*4,54110046,154100
*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 useLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
Num%Num%
Belt used227349,10642
Unbelted2944510,81750
Unknown belt use139211,5747
Total66010021,497100

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
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
200566322321,9537,10432
200666034521,4977,12333

References