Trucking Accident Facts and Statistics

Did you know that about every 15 minutes, a person is killed or seriously injured in an accident caused by tractor trailers, also called 18-wheelers or big rigs or semi-trucks? In fact, around 500,000 trucking accidents occur each year in the United States, with about 5,000 per year resulting in death. In 2008,

  • 123,918 large trucks and 13,263 buses were involved in non-fatal crashes
  • 49,084 large trucks and 7,123 buses were involved in injury crashes
  • 2,609 large trucks and 11 buses were involved in hazmat (HM) placard crashes

Sixty-eight percent of all fatal truck accidents happened not in cities, but in rural regions. More than half of all fatal truck accidents occurred during the day, and almost 80% occurred on weekends. Surprisingly, the majority of large truck crashes occur when the weather is clear and the roads dry (71%).

Large trucks are much more likely to be involved in a fatal multi-vehicle crash than are passenger vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that in crashes involving large trucks and other vehicles, 98% of the fatalities occur to the people in passenger vehicles.

Over 25 percent of all fatal tractor trailer accidents are caused by truck drivers who have had at least one prior speeding conviction prior to the fatal accident. Fatal crashes involving large trucks continues to increase and is often due to driver fatigue, unsafe or careless operation of the commercial vehicle, improper loading that causes the rig to be unstable, or simply poor vehicle maintenance or defective brakes or other equipment.

Examples of truck defects are:

  • Problems with tires or wheels
  • Brake-related crashes
  • Engine/transmission problems
  • Defective steering wheels

Nearly 700 truck drivers and their passengers are killed each year. Also, nearly 3,700 passengers in cars and other motor vehicles are killed annually in collisions with heavy trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued warnings to groups who use 15-seat passenger vans regarding the dangers of putting an inexperienced driver behind the wheel and at the same time fully loading these vans with cargo and passengers. The NHTSA also defines 15-passenger vans as large trucks, and it is recommended that only people with experience driving large trucks should be behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Standards Act classifies a large truck as a truck that has a gross vehicle weight rating that exceeds 10,000 pounds.

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