Large trucks | 2009

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 a higher fatal crash rate 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: 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 3,163 people died in large truck crashes in 2009. Fourteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 70 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 14 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Far fewer people died in large truck crashes in 2009 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 (67 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (47 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2009

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2009
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
19823,4486791718679135,125
19833,6156796018732145,404
19843,713671,04019712135,550
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
19973,992757171449795,295
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
20073,2347074516578134,613
20082,7746961515580144,017
20092,2237045714451143,163
*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 2009 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2009
Occupant typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants1,78198
Large truck occupants442
All occupant deaths1,825100

Large trucks accounted for 4 percent of registered vehicles and 8 percent of miles traveled in 2008.5 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 typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes4,01711
Other crashes33,40689
All crashes37,423100

Seventy-two percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2009 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 29 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes by truck type involved, 2009
Truck typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer2,28972
Single-unit91029

Sixty percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2009 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of large truck occupants in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2009
Number of large trucksDeaths%
16240
≥ 29460
Total156100

Nine percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 20 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2009 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2009
Crash typeLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Single-vehicle0012,37410012,374
Multiple-vehicle2,223208,8208011,043
All crashes*2,223921,2149123,437
*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).

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

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100,000,000 truck miles traveled, 1975-2008
YearTruck miles traveled in millionsPassenger vehicle occupantsLarge truck occupants
NumRateNumRate
197581,3302,7573.49161.1
197686,0703,0713.61,1001.3
197795,0213,6313.81,2291.3
1978105,7393,9543.71,3151.2
1979109,0044,2263.91,3721.3
1980108,4913,6233.31,1831.1
1981108,7023,7523.51,0821.0
1982111,4233,4483.19170.8
1983116,1323,6153.19600.8
1984121,7963,7133.01,0400.9
1985123,5043,8253.19410.8
1986126,6753,7523.08920.7
1987133,5173,8332.98210.6
1988137,9853,9382.98860.6
1989142,7493,8472.78220.6
1990146,2423,7902.66840.5
1991149,5433,4472.36500.4
1992153,3843,3002.25800.4
1993159,8883,6112.35900.4
1994170,2163,7642.26580.4
1995178,1623,6262.06340.4
1996182,9713,8662.16020.3
1997191,4773,9922.17170.4
1998196,3803,9812.07390.4
1999202,6883,9161.97470.4
2000205,5203,8631.97370.4
2001209,0323,7091.86910.3
2002214,6033,6161.76750.3
2003217,9173,5951.67030.3
2004220,7923,6931.77430.3
2005222,5233,5841.67580.3
2006222,5133,4661.67740.3
2007227,0603,2341.47450.3
2008227,4582,7741.26150.3
20092,223457

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Fifty-eight percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2009 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 31 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 11 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2009
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways98331
Other major roads1,82258
Minor roads33611
All road types*3,163100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Truck crash deaths are more likely to occur during morning and daytime hours than crashes involving only other vehicles, which are more frequent during evening and nighttime hours. Forty-nine percent of large truck crash deaths in 2009 occurred from 6am to 3pm.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by time of day, 2009
Time of dayLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight-3am27094,108134,37813
3am-6am28992,53582,8248
6am-9am451142,59083,0419
9am-noon529172,70793,23610
Noon-3pm584183,820124,40413
3pm-6pm502164,966165,46816
6pm-9pm29395,127175,42016
9pm-midnight23474,533154,76714
Total*3,16310030,64510033,808100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventeen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2009 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 37 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by day of week, 2009
Day of weekLarge truck crashesOther crashesAll crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday21175,338175,54916
Monday532173,597124,12912
Tuesday577183,332113,90912
Wednesday490153,564124,05412
Thursday519163,871134,39013
Friday516164,817165,33316
Saturday318106,126206,44419
Total*3,16310030,64510033,808100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2009 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (56 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, 2009
Vehicle typeNo rolloverRolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Large truck2204823752457
SUV1,862442,384564,246
Pickup2,487532,250474,737
Car10,561753,4972514,058
All20,142708,7943028,936

Sixty-six percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2009 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, 2009
Crash typeLarge truck occupantsPassenger vehicle occupants
Num%Num%
Single-vehicle3016612,37453
Multiple-vehicle1563411,04347
All crashes*45710023,437100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Eighteen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2009 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, 2009
Crash typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Num%Num%
Single vehicle5421815,05541
Two vehicles1,8926316,24945
> 2 vehicles566195,16914
All crashes*3,00110036,501100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-one percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2009 were using seat belts, compared with 44 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 19 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, 2009
Belt useLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
Num%Num%
Belt used166417,39344
Unbelted162408,18349
Unknown belt use79191,2157
Total40710016,791100

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 2009 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. Comparatively, 35 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2009 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, 1982-2009
YearLarge truck driversPassenger vehicle drivers
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%
19827351231719,66410,02451
19837671151519,3389,52949
19848591071220,2999,37846
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
199454536720,6477,08334
199554631621,4567,48835
199652534621,6317,33634
199761619321,7117,06933
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
200766317320,5427,05734
200853419418,2666,28034
200940716416,7915,86135


References