Large trucks | 2016

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. 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).

Posted December 2017.

Trends

A total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Seventeen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 27 percent higher in 2016 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it has been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.  The number of truck occupants who died was 47 percent higher than in 2009. 

Deaths in crashes involving large trucks, 1975-2016
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 2,362 67 590 17 537 15 3,529 100
2013 2,418 67 589 16 560 15 3,616 100
2014 2,486 68 585 16 535 15 3,663 100
2015 2,667 69 598 15 568 15 3,876 100
2016 2,642 66 660 17 637 16 3,986 100

Ninety-seven percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2016 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Occupant deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 2016
Occupant typeDeaths%
Passenger vehicle occupants 2,056 97
Large truck occupants 56 3
All occupant deaths 2,112 100

Eleven percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2016 occurred in large truck crashes.

Motor vehicle crash deaths occurring in large truck crashes and other crashes, 2016
Crash typeDeaths%
Large truck crashes 3,986 11
Other crashes 33,475 89
All crashes 37,461 100

Seventy-three percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2016 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 21 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, 2016
Truck typeDeaths%
Tractor-trailer 2,920 73
Single-unit 826 21
Truck type unknown 327 8

Sixty-seven percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2016 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.

Deaths of large truck occupants in multiple-vehicle crashes by number of large trucks involved, 2016
Number of large trucksDeaths%
1 83 33
≥ 2 168 67
Total 251 100

Eleven percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 21 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2016 occurred in crashes with large trucks.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type and large truck involvement, 2016
Crash typeLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Number%Number%Number
Single-vehicle 00 11,365 100 11,365
Multiple-vehicle 2,642 21 9,786 79 12,428
All crashes* 2,642 11 21,151 89 23,793

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. 2015. Highway statistics, 2014. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.

Occupant deaths in large truck crashes per 100 million truck miles traveled, 1975-2016
YearTruck miles traveled in millionsPassenger vehicle occupantsLarge truck occupants
NumberRateNumberRate
1975 81,330 2,757 3.39 916 1.13
1976 86,070 3,071 3.57 1,100 1.28
1977 95,021 3,631 3.82 1,229 1.29
1978 105,739 3,954 3.74 1,315 1.24
1979 109,004 4,226 3.88 1,372 1.26
1980 108,491 3,623 3.34 1,183 1.09
1981 108,702 3,752 3.45 1,082 1.00
1982 111,423 3,448 3.09 917 0.82
1983 116,132 3,615 3.11 960 0.83
1984 121,796 3,713 3.05 1,040 0.85
1985 123,504 3,825 3.10 941 0.76
1986 126,675 3,752 2.96 892 0.70
1987 133,517 3,833 2.87 821 0.61
1988 137,985 3,938 2.85 886 0.64
1989 142,749 3,847 2.69 822 0.58
1990 146,242 3,790 2.59 684 0.47
1991 149,543 3,447 2.31 650 0.43
1992 153,384 3,300 2.15 580 0.38
1993 159,888 3,611 2.26 590 0.37
1994 170,216 3,764 2.21 658 0.39
1995 178,162 3,626 2.04 634 0.36
1996 182,971 3,866 2.11 602 0.33
1997 191,477 3,992 2.08 717 0.37
1998 196,380 3,981 2.03 739 0.38
1999 202,688 3,916 1.93 747 0.37
2000 205,520 3,863 1.88 737 0.36
2001 209,032 3,709 1.77 691 0.33
2002 214,603 3,616 1.68 675 0.31
2003 217,917 3,595 1.65 703 0.32
2004 220,792 3,693 1.67 743 0.34
2005 222,523 3,584 1.61 758 0.34
2006 222,513 3,466 1.56 774 0.35
2007 304,178 3,234 1.06 745 0.24
2008 310,680 2,774 0.89 615 0.20
2009 288,306 2,223 0.77 449 0.16
2010 286,527 2,453 0.86 475 0.17
2011 267,594 2,245 0.84 555 0.21
2012 269,207 2,362 0.88 590 0.22
2013 275,017 2,418 0.88 589 0.21
2014 279,132 2,486 0.89 585 0.21
2015 279,844 2,667 0.95 598 0.21
2016 287,895 2,642 0.92 660 0.23

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Sixty percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2016 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 32 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and seven percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2016
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways 1,277 32
Other major roads 2,373 60
Minor roads 281 7
Unknown 55 1
All road types 3,986 100

Forty-eight percent of large truck crash deaths in 2016 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, 2016
Time of dayLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 362 9 4,019 12 4,381 12
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 461 12 2,804 8 3,265 9
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 593 15 3,053 9 3,646 10
9 a.m. - noon 668 17 2,825 8 3,493 9
Noon - 3 p.m. 667 17 4,120 12 4,787 13
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 575 14 5,406 16 5,981 16
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 350 9 5,905 18 6,255 17
9 p.m. - midnight 303 8 5,070 15 5,373 14
Total* 3,986 100 33,475 100 37,461 100

Sixteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2016 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 34 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.

Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by day of week, 2016
Day of WeekLarge truck crashesOther crashes All crashes
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
Sunday 257 6 5,552 17 5,809 16
Monday 677 17 4,206 13 4,883 13
Tuesday 608 15 3,836 11 4,444 12
Wednesday 728 18 3,967 12 4,695 13
Thursday 636 16 4,366 13 5,002 13
Friday 692 17 5,134 15 5,826 16
Saturday 388 10 6,414 19 6,802 18
Total* 3,986 100 33,475 100 37,461 100

Comparison of large truck crashes and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-five percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2016 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was slightly higher than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths and pickup occupant deaths that occurred in rollover crashes and much higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in cars (22 percent) involving rollovers.

Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2016
Vehicle typeNo rolloverRollover All crashes
Number%Number%Number%
Large truck 300 45 360 55 660 100
SUV 2,578 53 2,295 47 4,873 100
Pickup 2,639 57 1,959 43 4,598 100
Car 10,838 78 3,092 22 13,930 100
Total* 22,203 73 8,179 27 30,382 100

Sixty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2016 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 48 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2016
Crash typeLarge truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Number%Number%
Single-vehicle 409 62 11,365 48
Multiple-vehicle 251 38 12,428 52
All crashes* 660 100 23,793 100

Nineteen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2016 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 38 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, 2016
Crash typeLarge trucksPassenger vehicles
Number%Number%
Single vehicle 7220 15,8260
Two vehicles 2,3400 18,6110
> 2 vehicles 8090 6,8590
All crashes* 3,8710 41,2960

Forty-four percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2016 were using safety belts, compared with 48 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 21 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers, compared with 8 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.

Safety belt use among fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers, 2016
Belt useLarge truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Number%Number%
Belt used 261 44 8,424 48
Unbelted 203 35 7,670 44
Unknown 123 21 1,444 8
Total 587 100 17,538 100

Thirty-one percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a large truck in 2016 were in head-on crashes with the truck.  Twenty 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, 2016
Large truckPassenger vehicleTotal
FrontSide Rear Other
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
Front 639 31 509 25 121 6 12 1 1281 62
Side 242 12 58 3 2 <1 9 <1 311 15
Rear 413 20 7 <1 2 <1 2 <1 424 21
Other 16 1 5 <100 19 1 40 2
Total 1310 64 579 28 125 6 42 2 2056100

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 2016 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. For comparison, 29 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2016 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, 1982-2016
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 524 14 3 15,915 5,204 33
2013 529 17 3 15,577 5,108 33
2014 536 16 3 15,495 4,906 32
2015 536 16 3 16,629 4,916 30
2016 587 16 3 17,538 5,024 29

References