Large trucks | 2007

Based on their Numberbers 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, and are taller with greater ground clearance.

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.G. 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. 2008. Work schedules of long-distance truck drivers before and after 2004 hours-of-service rule change. Traffic Injury Prevention 9: 201-10.

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 4,602 people died in large truck crashes in 2007. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 70 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 12 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Large truck crash deaths have declined 30 percent overall since 1979, when they were at an all-time high. There has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (46 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (24 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2007

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2007
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
20063,4667177416564124,886
20073,2007074316575124,602
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Ninety-seven percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2007 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2007
Occupant typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants2,49497
Large truck occupants783
All occupant deaths2,572100

Large trucks accounted for 4 percent of registered vehicles and 7 percent of miles traveled in 2007.5 Eleven percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2007 occurred in large truck crashes.

Percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths occuring in large truck crashes and other crashes, 2007
Crash typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes4,60211
Other crashes36,45789
All crashes41,059100

Seventy-four percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2007 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, 2007
Truck typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer3,38574
Single-unit1,27228
Note: More than one large truck may be involved in a single crash and the deaths associated with that crash.

Sixty-three percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2007 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of large truck occupants in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2007
Number of large trucksDeaths%
110537
≥ 218063
Total285100

Eleven percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2007 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2007
Crash typeLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Single-vehicle0014,83810014,838
Multiple-vehicle3,2002310,8347714,034
All crashes*3,2001125,6968928,896
*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. 2008. Highway statistics, 2007. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled declined substantially from 1975 to 2007. The percentage decline in the death rate for large truck occupants (71 percent) exceeded the percentage decline in the rate for passenger vehicle occupants (58 percent).

Vehicle occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2007

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100,000,000 truck miles traveled, 1975-2007
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
1999202,6887470.43,9161.9
2000205,5207370.43,8631.9
2001209,0326910.33,7091.8
2002214,6036750.33,6161.7
2003217,9177030.33,5951.6
2004220,7927430.33,6931.7
2005222,5237580.33,5841.6
2006222,5137740.33,4661.6
2007226,9637430.33,2001.4

Where and hen large truck crashes occured

Fifty-eight percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2007 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 30 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 10 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2007
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,39630
Other major roads2,66958
Minor roads46110
All road types*4,602100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-six percent of large truck crash deaths in 2007 occurred from 6 am to 6 pm, compared with 45 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by time of day, 2007
Time of dayLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight-3am36785,050145,41713
3am-6am40893,07883,4868
6am-9am683153,19993,8829
9am-noon785173,05483,8399
Noon-3pm856194,435125,29113
3pm-6pm734165,856166,59016
6pm-9pm41295,917166,32915
9pm-midnight34985,519155,86814
Total*4,60210036,45710041,059100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventeen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2007 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 38 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by day of week, 2007
Day of WeekLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday30176,607186,90817
Monday760174,491125,25113
Tuesday721163,978114,69911
Wednesday800174,282125,08212
Thursday733164,323125,05612
Friday819185,574156,39316
Saturday468107,202207,67019
Total*4,60210036,45710041,059100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-four percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2007 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (58 percent) that occurred in rollover crashes and higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in pickups (47 percent) and cars (25 percent) involving rollovers.

Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2007
Vehicle typeNo rolloverRolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Large truck3414640254743
SUV2,012422,829584,841
Pickup3,109532,720475,829
Car13,267754,3722517,639
All18,7296410,3233629,052

Sixty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2007 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, 2007
Crash typeLarge truck occupantsPassenger vehicle occupants
Num%Num%
Single-vehicle4586214,83851
Multiple-vehicle2853814,03449
All crashes*74310028,896100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventeen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2007 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, 2007
Crash typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Num%Num%
Single vehicle7551717,59640
Two vehicles2,7046219,89745
>2 vehicles921216,74715
All crashes*4,38110044,269100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-six percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2007 were using seat belts, compared with 43 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, 2007
Belt useLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
Num%Num%
Belt used235368,85743
Unbelted288449,99949
Unknown belt use138211,5257
Total66110020,381100

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 2 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2007 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. Comparatively, 35 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2007 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent compared to 51 percent in 1982.

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2007
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
200667830421,5927,16433
200766116220,3817,04235

References