Large trucks | 2012

Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. 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, which can result in smaller vehicles underriding trucks in crashes.

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 on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes. 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 seven-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted. 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 3,514 people died in large truck crashes in 2012. Seventeen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 12 percent higher in 2012 than in 2009, when it was lower than at any year since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.  The number of truck occupants who died was 32 percent higher than in 2009. Since 1979, when deaths in large truck crashes were at an all time high, there has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (57 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (44 percent).

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2012
YearPassenger vehicle occupants Large truck occupants Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestriansTotal*
Number%Number%Number%Number%
1975 2,757 64 916 21 528 12 4,305 100
1976 3,071 63 1,100 22 622 13 4,893 100
1977 3,631 65 1,229 22 653 12 5,614 100
1978 3,954 64 1,315 21 776 13 6,160 100
1979 4,226 65 1,372 21 830 13 6,539 100
1980 3,623 63 1,183 21 844 15 5,740 100
1981 3,752 66 1,082 19 772 14 5,680 100
1982 3,448 67 917 18 679 13 5,125 100
1983 3,615 67 960 18 732 14 5,404 100
1984 3,713 67 1,040 19 712 13 5,550 100
1985 3,825 68 941 17 724 13 5,613 100
1986 3,752 69 892 16 718 13 5,468 100
1987 3,833 70 821 15 712 13 5,471 100
1988 3,938 71 886 16 647 12 5,566 100
1989 3,847 72 822 15 587 11 5,360 100
1990 3,790 73 684 13 615 12 5,174 100
1991 3,447 73 650 14 562 12 4,728 100
1992 3,300 75 580 13 481 11 4,422 100
1993 3,611 76 590 12 462 10 4,778 100
1994 3,764 74 658 13 555 11 5,069 100
1995 3,626 75 634 13 495 10 4,834 100
1996 3,866 77 602 12 465 9 5,048 100
1997 3,992 75 717 14 497 9 5,295 100
1998 3,981 75 739 14 495 9 5,316 100
1999 3,916 74 747 14 519 10 5,299 100
2000 3,863 75 737 14 490 9 5,173 100
2001 3,709 74 691 14 513 10 5,012 100
2002 3,616 75 675 14 464 10 4,846 100
2003 3,595 73 703 14 504 10 4,905 100
2004 3,693 72 743 15 564 11 5,099 100
2005 3,584 71 758 15 595 12 5,049 100
2006 3,466 71 774 16 564 12 4,886 100
2007 3,234 70 745 16 578 13 4,613 100
2008 2,774 69 615 15 580 14 4,017 100
2009 2,223 71 449 14 443 14 3,147 100
2010 2,453 72 475 14 445 13 3,418 100
2011 2,245 66 555 16 530 16 3,384 100
2012 2,352 67 591 17 531 15 3,514 100

Ninety-six percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2012 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2012
Occupant typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants 1,876 96
Large truck occupants 69 4
All occupant deaths 1,945 100

Ten percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2012 occurred in large truck crashes.

Percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths occurring in large truck crashes and other crashes, 2012
Crash typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes 3,514 10
Other crashes 30,047 90
All crashes 33,561 100

Seventy-four percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2012 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 27 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks.  Some crashes involved both a tractor-trailer and a single-unit truck. 

Deaths in large truck crashes by truck type involved, 2012
Truck typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer 2,593 74
Single-unit 958 27

Sixty percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2012 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of large truck occupants in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large truck involved, 2012
Number of large trucksDeaths%
1 92 40
≥ 2 138 60
Total 230 100

Eleven percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2012 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2012
Crash typeLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Number%Number%Number
Single-vehicle 00 11,429 100 11,429
Multiple-vehicle 2,352 23 8,014 77 10,366
All crashes* 2,352 11 19,443 89 21,795

Among vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes, both the rate of passenger vehicle occupant deaths per truck mile traveled and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled have declined substantially since 1975. Federal Highway Administration. 2013. Highway statistics, 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2012
YearTruck miles traveled in millionsLarge truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
NumberrateNumberrate
1975 81,330 916 1.13 2,757 3.39
1976 86,070 1,100 1.28 3,071 3.57
1977 95,021 1,229 1.29 3,631 3.82
1978 105,739 1,315 1.24 3,954 3.74
1979 109,004 1,372 1.26 4,226 3.88
1980 108,491 1,183 1.09 3,623 3.34
1981 108,702 1,082 1.00 3,752 3.45
1982 111,423 917 0.82 3,448 3.09
1983 116,132 960 0.83 3,615 3.11
1984 121,796 1,040 0.85 3,713 3.05
1985 123,504 941 0.76 3,825 3.10
1986 126,675 892 0.70 3,752 2.96
1987 133,517 821 0.61 3,833 2.87
1988 137,985 886 0.64 3,938 2.85
1989 142,749 822 0.58 3,847 2.69
1990 146,242 684 0.47 3,790 2.59
1991 149,543 650 0.43 3,447 2.31
1992 153,384 580 0.38 3,300 2.15
1993 159,888 590 0.37 3,611 2.26
1994 170,216 658 0.39 3,764 2.21
1995 178,162 634 0.36 3,626 2.04
1996 182,971 602 0.33 3,866 2.11
1997 191,477 717 0.37 3,992 2.08
1998 196,380 739 0.38 3,981 2.03
1999 202,688 747 0.37 3,916 1.93
2000 205,520 737 0.36 3,863 1.88
2001 209,032 691 0.33 3,709 1.77
2002 214,603 675 0.31 3,616 1.68
2003 217,917 703 0.32 3,595 1.65
2004 220,792 743 0.34 3,693 1.67
2005 222,523 758 0.34 3,584 1.61
2006 222,513 774 0.35 3,466 1.56
2007 304,178 745 0.24 3,234 1.06
2008 310,680 615 0.20 2,774 0.89
2009 288,306 449 0.16 2,223 0.77
2010 286,527 475 0.17 2,453 0.86
2011 267,594 555 0.21 2,245 0.84
2012 268,318 591 0.22 2,352 0.88

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Sixty percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2012 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, 2012
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways 1,035 29
Other major roads 2,113 60
Minor roads 347 10
All road types* 3,514 100

Forty-nine percent of large truck crash deaths in 2012 occurred from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., compared with 30 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by time of day, 2012
Time of dayLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 312 9 3,950 13 4,262 13
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 360 10 2,430 8 2,790 8
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 519 15 2,682 9 3,201 10
9 a.m. - noon 569 16 2,689 9 3,258 10
Noon - 3 p.m. 638 18 3,702 12 4,340 13
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 528 15 4,887 16 5,415 16
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 324 9 5,075 17 5,399 16
9 p.m. - midnight 263 7 4,373 15 4,636 14
Total* 3,514 100 30,047 100 33,561 100

Seventeen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2012 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, 2012
Day of WeekLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday 266 8 5,322 18 5,588 17
Monday 597 17 3,624 12 4,221 13
Tuesday 583 17 3,423 11 4,006 12
Wednesday 562 16 3,665 12 4,227 13
Thursday 605 17 3,672 12 4,277 13
Friday 582 17 4,458 15 5,040 15
Saturday 319 9 5,883 20 6,202 18
Total* 3,514 100 30,047 100 33,561 100

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-three percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2012 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (55 percent) that occurred in rollover crashes and higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in pickups (46 percent) and cars (24 percent) involving rollovers.

Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2012
Vehicle typeNo rolloverRollover All crashes
Number%Number%Number%
Large truck 280 47 311 53 591 100
SUV 1,873 45 2,281 55 4,154 100
Pickup 2,347 54 1,981 46 4,328 100
Car 9,816 76 3,185 24 13,001 100
Total* 19,736 71 8,133 29 27,869 100

Sixty-one percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2012 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 52 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2012
Crash typeLarge truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Number%Number%
Single-vehicle 361 61 11,429 52
Multiple-vehicle 230 39 10,366 48
All crashes* 591 100 21,795 100

Eighteen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2012 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, 2012
Crash typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Number%Number%
Single vehicle 602 18 14,826 41
Two vehicles 2,093 61 15,632 44
> 2 vehicles 715 21 5,347 15
All crashes* 3,410 100 35,805 100

Forty-three percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2012 were using safety belts, compared with 45 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.

Safety belt use among fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers, 2012
Belt useLarge truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Number%Number%
Belt used 227 43 7,190 45
Unbelted 182 35 7,492 47
Unknown 117 22 1,160 7
Total 526 100 15,842 100

Thirty percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a large truck in 2012 were in head-on crashes with the truck.  Eighteen percent involved the front of the passenger vehicle striking the rear of the large truck.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2-vehicle crashes with a large truck, 2012
Large truckPassenger vehicleTotal
FrontSide Rear Other
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
Front 563 30 513 27 874.6 19 1 1182 63
Side 259 14 392.1 4 <1 9 <1 311 17
Rear 342 18 17 1.. 2 <1 361 19
Other 11 1 2 <1.. 9 <1 221.2
Total 1175 63 571 30 914.9 392.1 1876100

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. Three percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2012 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. For comparison, 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2012 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 51 percent in 1982.

Estimated percent and number of fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥0.08 percent, 1982-2012
YearLarge truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%NumberNumber%
1982 735 123 17 19,664 10,024 51
1983 767 115 15 19,338 9,529 49
1984 859 107 12 20,300 9,379 46
1985 775 84 11 20,058 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 21,457 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 399 16 4 16,834 5,791 34
2010 426 17 4 16,029 5,177 32
2011 493 9 2 15,561 5,064 33
2012 526 14 3 15,842 5,180 33

References