The federal government keeps a close watch on accident statistics so agencies can launch awareness campaigns and enact safety regulations and legislation to reduce the number of accidents each year.
Here are key facts and figures on truck accidents from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Truck crash fatalities
According to data gathered in 2018, 4,136 people died in truck crashes that year. This is a very slight increase over 2016 and 2017 numbers. Passenger vehicle occupants made up the majority of these deaths (67%), followed by truck occupants (16%) and pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists (15%).
However, when a truck and a passenger vehicle collided, fatalities were overwhelmingly in the smaller vehicles. Only 4% of the deaths occurring in truck-car crashes were truck occupants.
Truck crash causes
Anyone who has nodded off after several hours of driving may understand why truckers, who often spend as many as 11 hours behind the wheel per day, may succumb to fatigue. Research shows that any trucker who spends more than eight hours driving is twice as likely to crash. Although 11 hours on the road is the maximum allowed by law, with a 30-minute break required after eight hours, truckers may work a 14-hour day.
Defective equipment also contributes to crashes, and brake defects were the most common in more than one study. Steering equipment issues came in at a distant second.
Crashes caused by braking systems were not always due to defects in the system, however. Longer stopping distances, poor maintenance and slippery roads also led to accidents.
Truck crash fatality prevention
Safety features that passenger vehicle drivers are beginning to expect have made their way into many large trucks. Along with electronic stability control to prevent rollovers, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and automatic braking technologies have the potential to prevent or lessen the impact of as many as 107,000 crashes per year.