Large trucks | 2008

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, and are taller with greater ground clearance.

Truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take much farther than passenger vehicles 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 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 4,008 people died in large truck crashes in 2008. Fifteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 69 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 14 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Fewer people died in large truck crashes in 2008 than in any year since data on fatal crashes began to be collected in 1975. Since 1979, when deaths were at an all time high, there has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (55 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (35 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2008

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2008
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 3,448 67 917 18 679 13 5,125
1983 3,615 67 960 18 732 14 5,404
1984 3,713 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 3,992 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 3,466 71 774 16 564 12 4,886
2007 3,234 70 745 16 578 13 4,613
2008 2,759 69 617 15 579 14 4,008
*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 2008 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2008
Occupant type Deaths %
Passenger vehicle occupants 2,190 97
Large truck occupants 57 3
All occupant deaths 2,247 100

Large trucks accounted for 4 percent of registered vehicles and 8 percent of miles traveled in 20085. Eleven percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2008 occurred in large truck crashes.

Percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths occuring in large truck crashes and other crashes, 2008
Crash type Deaths %
Large truck crashes 4,008 11
Other crashes 33,253 89
All crashes 37,261 100

Seventy-four percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2008 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, 2008
Truck type Deaths %
Tractor-trailer 2,952 74
Single-unit 1,115 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 2008 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of large truck occupants in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2008
Number of large trucks Deaths %
1 80 35
≥ 2 147 65
Total 227 100

In 2008, 11 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2008
Crash type Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Single-vehicle 0 0 13,482 100 13,482
Multiple-vehicle 2,759 23 9,172 77 11,931
All crashes* 2,759 11 22,669 89 25,428
*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. 2010. Highway statistics, 2008. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled declined substantially from 1975 to 2008. The percentage decline in the death rate for large truck occupants (76 percent) exceeded the percentage decline in the rate for passenger vehicle occupants (64 percent).

Vehicle occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2008

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2008
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 3,448 3.1
1983 116,132 960 0.8 3,615 3.1
1984 121,796 1,040 0.9 3,713 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 3,992 2.1
1998 196,380 739 0.4 3,981 2.0
1999 202,688 747 0.4 3,916 1.9
2000 205,520 737 0.4 3,863 1.9
2001 209,032 691 0.3 3,709 1.8
2002 214,603 675 0.3 3,616 1.7
2003 217,917 703 0.3 3,595 1.6
2004 220,792 743 0.3 3,693 1.7
2005 222,523 758 0.3 3,584 1.6
2006 222,513 774 0.3 3,466 1.6
2007 226,963 745 0.3 3,234 1.4
2008 227,458 617 0.3 2,759 1.4

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Fifty-eight percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2008 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, 2008
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,247 31
Other major roads 2,310 58
Minor roads 415 10
All road types* 4,008 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-two percent of large truck crash deaths in 2008 occurred from 6am to 3pm, compared with 30 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by time of day, 2008
Time of day Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Midnight-3am 305 8 4,613 14 4,918 13
3am-6am 350 9 2,707 8 3,057 8
6am-9am 620 15 2,864 9 3,484 9
9am-noon 721 18 2,923 9 3,644 10
Noon-3pm 762 19 3,997 12 4,759 13
3pm-6pm 576 14 5,226 16 5,802 16
6pm-9pm 368 9 5,487 17 5,855 16
9pm-midnight 302 8 5,154 15 5,456 15
Total* 4,008 100 33,253 100 37,261 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2008 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 37 percent of crash deaths involving other types of vehicles.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by day of week, 2008
Day of week Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Sunday 244 6 5,920 18 6,164 17
Monday 658 16 3,817 11 4,475 12
Tuesday 677 17 3,926 12 4,603 12
Wednesday 675 17 3,839 12 4,514 12
Thursday 704 18 3,983 12 4,687 13
Friday 698 17 5,273 16 5,971 16
Saturday 352 9 6,494 20 6,846 18
Total* 4,008 100 33,253 100 37,261 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2008 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, 2008
Vehicle type No rollover Rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Large truck 298 48 319 52 617
SUV 1,827 42 2,494 58 4,321
Pickup 2,654 53 2,372 47 5,026
Car 11,617 75 3,949 25 15,566
All 16,396 64 9,134 36 25,530

Sixty-three percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2008 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 53 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2008
Crash type Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Num % Num %
Single-vehicle 389 63 13,482 53
Multiple-vehicle 227 37 11,931 47
All crashes* 617 100 25,428 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventeen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2008 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 41 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, 2008
Crash type Large trucks Passenger vehicles
Num % Num %
Single vehicle 657 17 16,238 41
Two vehicles 2,411 63 17,637 44
> 2 vehicles 767 20 5,798 15
All crashes* 3,841 100 39,702 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-nine percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2008 were using seat belts, compared with 43 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 22 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, 2008
Belt use Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Num % Num %
Belt used 211 39 7,757 43
Unbelted 206 39 9,143 50
Unknown belt use 118 22 1,301 7
Total 535 100 18,201 100

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. Four percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2008 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. Comparatively, 35 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2008 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, 1982-2008
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 19,664 10,024 51
1983 767 115 15 19,338 9,529 49
1984 859 107 12 20,299 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 20,647 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 21,711 7,069 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 678 30 4 21,592 7,164 33
2007 663 17 3 20,542 7,057 34
2008 535 19 4 18,201 6,332 35

References