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
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 2,774 69 615 15 580 14 4,017
2009 2,223 70 457 14 451 14 3,163
*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 type Deaths %
Passenger vehicle occupants 1,781 98
Large truck occupants 44 2
All occupant deaths 1,825 100

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 type Deaths %
Large truck crashes 4,017 11
Other crashes 33,406 89
All crashes 37,423 100

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 type Deaths %
Tractor-trailer 2,289 72
Single-unit 910 29

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 trucks Deaths %
1 62 40
≥ 2 94 60
Total 156 100

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 type Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Single-vehicle 0 0 12,374 100 12,374
Multiple-vehicle 2,223 20 8,820 80 11,043
All crashes* 2,223 9 21,214 91 23,437
*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
Year Truck miles traveled in millions Passenger vehicle occupants Large truck occupants
Num Rate Num Rate
1975 81,330 2,757 3.4 916 1.1
1976 86,070 3,071 3.6 1,100 1.3
1977 95,021 3,631 3.8 1,229 1.3
1978 105,739 3,954 3.7 1,315 1.2
1979 109,004 4,226 3.9 1,372 1.3
1980 108,491 3,623 3.3 1,183 1.1
1981 108,702 3,752 3.5 1,082 1.0
1982 111,423 3,448 3.1 917 0.8
1983 116,132 3,615 3.1 960 0.8
1984 121,796 3,713 3.0 1,040 0.9
1985 123,504 3,825 3.1 941 0.8
1986 126,675 3,752 3.0 892 0.7
1987 133,517 3,833 2.9 821 0.6
1988 137,985 3,938 2.9 886 0.6
1989 142,749 3,847 2.7 822 0.6
1990 146,242 3,790 2.6 684 0.5
1991 149,543 3,447 2.3 650 0.4
1992 153,384 3,300 2.2 580 0.4
1993 159,888 3,611 2.3 590 0.4
1994 170,216 3,764 2.2 658 0.4
1995 178,162 3,626 2.0 634 0.4
1996 182,971 3,866 2.1 602 0.3
1997 191,477 3,992 2.1 717 0.4
1998 196,380 3,981 2.0 739 0.4
1999 202,688 3,916 1.9 747 0.4
2000 205,520 3,863 1.9 737 0.4
2001 209,032 3,709 1.8 691 0.3
2002 214,603 3,616 1.7 675 0.3
2003 217,917 3,595 1.6 703 0.3
2004 220,792 3,693 1.7 743 0.3
2005 222,523 3,584 1.6 758 0.3
2006 222,513 3,466 1.6 774 0.3
2007 227,060 3,234 1.4 745 0.3
2008 227,458 2,774 1.2 615 0.3
2009 2,223 457

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 type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 983 31
Other major roads 1,822 58
Minor roads 336 11
All road types* 3,163 100
*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 day Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Midnight-3am 270 9 4,108 13 4,378 13
3am-6am 289 9 2,535 8 2,824 8
6am-9am 451 14 2,590 8 3,041 9
9am-noon 529 17 2,707 9 3,236 10
Noon-3pm 584 18 3,820 12 4,404 13
3pm-6pm 502 16 4,966 16 5,468 16
6pm-9pm 293 9 5,127 17 5,420 16
9pm-midnight 234 7 4,533 15 4,767 14
Total* 3,163 100 30,645 100 33,808 100
*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 week Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Sunday 211 7 5,338 17 5,549 16
Monday 532 17 3,597 12 4,129 12
Tuesday 577 18 3,332 11 3,909 12
Wednesday 490 15 3,564 12 4,054 12
Thursday 519 16 3,871 13 4,390 13
Friday 516 16 4,817 16 5,333 16
Saturday 318 10 6,126 20 6,444 19
Total* 3,163 100 30,645 100 33,808 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 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 type No rollover Rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Large truck 220 48 237 52 457
SUV 1,862 44 2,384 56 4,246
Pickup 2,487 53 2,250 47 4,737
Car 10,561 75 3,497 25 14,058
All 20,142 70 8,794 30 28,936

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 type Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Num % Num %
Single-vehicle 301 66 12,374 53
Multiple-vehicle 156 34 11,043 47
All crashes* 457 100 23,437 100
*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 type Large trucks Passenger vehicles
Num % Num %
Single vehicle 542 18 15,055 41
Two vehicles 1,892 63 16,249 45
> 2 vehicles 566 19 5,169 14
All crashes* 3,001 100 36,501 100
*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 use Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Num % Num %
Belt used 166 41 7,393 44
Unbelted 162 40 8,183 49
Unknown belt use 79 19 1,215 7
Total 407 100 16,791 100

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 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
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 534 19 4 18,266 6,280 34
2009 407 16 4 16,791 5,861 35


References