Semi-Truck Accidents by the Numbers
Any automobile accident can have catastrophic consequences for any of the parties involved. Tractor-trailer accidents generally cause the most severe damage to involved parties. Big trucks weigh much more than the average passenger vehicle, so they do considerably more damage in an accident. Furthermore, big trucks may take longer to slow down or come to a stop, which may mean more force behind the accident by the time it occurs.
Every day, more than 63 percent of the goods transported across the United States and Mexico travel by truck. That means thousands of hours of driving time for truckers across the nation, and in those thousands of hours, more than eleven people die in truck accidents each day.
The Trucking Industry
The trucking industry provides a vital connection between suppliers and sellers of goods across the country. The United States offers a number of diverse goods, with manufacturing plants and farms producing a wide range of products needed across the nation in several centralized locations. Tractor trailers help get those products where people need and want them.
Semi-Truck Accident Statistics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases an annual report concerning motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents. It includes multiple facts of note about truck accidents for the preceding years. Several key facts stood out in the most recent report.
Around 510,000 large truck crashes get reported every year.
Around 1 percent of truck crashes, or an estimated 4,400, involve fatal collisions.
29 percent of police-reported truck accidents, or about 114,000 truck collisions annually, result in injuries.
Around 21 percent of fatal truck crashes involved only a single vehicle. Pedestrians and cyclists may have suffered fatalities in those types of collisions.
57 percent of large truck crashes occur in rural areas. Rural areas may include long stretches of winding roads, where drivers may have fewer options that will allow them to get away from a potential collision.
Around 25 percent of fatal truck accident crashes occur on interstates. Interstates see much heavier truck traffic than the average road since big trucks generally use interstates to connect them to their routes.
Around 33 percent of fatal work zone crashes and 14 percent of injury crashes in work zones involved big trucks.
Eighty-two percent of truck accident fatalities did not include the truck’s occupants. Truck drivers generally have much more protection against injury in an accident due to the large size of their trucks.
The FMCSA report helps provide vital insights into truck crashes across the nation. It includes an accurate look at how and where truck accidents occur and an assessment of all truck accidents for the preceding year.
The Most Common Causes of Big Truck Accidents
Big truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. Many collisions in big-truck accidents involve a decision made or an act of negligence committed by the truck driver, who must ultimately take responsibility for everything in the vehicle. However, other factors may also contribute heavily to the risk of truck accidents, including policies held by the trucking company and weather conditions. Many factors contribute more often to the high risk of a truck accident.
Running out of the Lane
Big trucks take up a lot of space in their lanes. As a result, they cannot easily navigate safely. Big trucks have a relatively small margin for error when remaining in their lanes. Running out of the lane that the vehicle should travel in accounts for around 32 percent of truck accidents.
Loss of Control of the Vehicle
Truck drivers may lose control of their vehicles for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons include driver error: speeding, for example.
Others may include:
Around 29 percent of truck accidents occur because the truck driver loses control of the vehicle.
Rear-end collisions make up around 22 percent of truck accidents. Rear-end collisions may occur because the truck driver does not leave adequate space to come to a safe stop. However, rear-end collisions often happen when other drivers commit errors.
Other drivers may fail to realize how much space it takes to stop a semi-truck. They may pull over in front of the truck abruptly, not leaving the driver enough room to stop. Rear-end collisions may also occur because the driver in front of the truck stops suddenly.
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Semi-Truck Accident Cause Statistics: Other Causes
Other factors may contribute to any of these accident types. Other drivers may fail to pay proper attention to the road, whether they choose to drive distracted or fail to note the needs of truck drivers around them. Truck drivers and other drivers may drive fatigued, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or fail to follow the law.
Drivers cause accidents more often if they do not know the road well. Accident risk may also increase due to congestion or other unanticipated events, including other accidents ahead on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association notes that of its sample:
- 29 percent of total accidents involved brake problems.
- 23 percent of accidents involved speeding.
- 22 percent of accidents involved drivers traveling unfamiliar roads.
- 20 percent of accidents involved roadway problems.
- 17 percent of accidents involved prescription drug use by the driver.
- 14 percent of accidents involved inadequate surveillance by the driver.
- 13 percent of accidents involved driver fatigue.
- 10 percent of accidents involved a commercial driver who felt work pressure from their carrier, including pressure to drive despite fatigue or pressure to meet deadlines.
- 9 percent of drivers involved in accidents made an illegal maneuver.
- 8 percent of drivers suffered from external distractions before an accident.
- 6 percent of vehicles had tire problems that contributed to the accident.
- 5 percent of drivers followed too closely.
- 4 percent of vehicles involved in accidents had a cargo shift that unsafely shifted the truck’s balance.
- 3 percent of drivers suffered illness at the time of the accident.
- 2 percent of drivers used illegal drugs at the time of the accident.
- 1 percent of drivers used alcohol at the time of the accident.
This relatively small sample, which included approximately 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles that were not large trucks, offers a clue into potential causes of truck accidents.
In some cases, other drivers on the road can help prevent or reduce the odds of truck accidents. In other cases, truck drivers themselves may reduce their odds of accidents. Sometimes, however, drivers cannot avoid truck accidents entirely: tire failures, brake problems, road issues, and cargo shifts may occur without warning, leaving drivers struggling to respond appropriately.
The Rise of Semi Truck Accidents
The risk of a semi-truck accident has increased as increasing numbers of semi-trucks fill the roads. While 2020 may have seen fewer overall truck accident fatalities, perhaps due in part to the lower number of cars on the road overall, semi trucks continue to cause damaging collisions. Many factors may contribute to the increase in truck accidents.
The Truck Driver Shortage
The United States has a shortage of around 60,000 truck drivers: a shortage that experts predict will continue to increase over the coming years. The lack of truck drivers can mean increased accident risks. As the trucking industry struggles to bring new drivers on board, those new drivers may end up pushed out on the road before they have the training necessary to fill those roles, which may increase the risk of accidents due to inexperience.
More Trucks on the Roads
The need for truck drivers and big trucks continues to increase traffic. Many of America’s roads carry more traffic than they reasonably can, leading to more damaged roads and higher accident potential. Heavy traffic substantially increases the risk that everyone on the road will be involved in an accident.
Dangerous Driving Behaviors
Some people may prove more likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors. Unfortunately, those risky behaviors may substantially increase the risk that semi-truck drivers will find themselves involved in a devastating collision that they do not have adequate time to avoid.
Understanding Semi-Truck Accidents: Why Semi-Trucks Have Higher Accident Risks
Truck drivers spend countless hours on the road every day. They undergo extensive training before receiving their license to operate tractor trailers, and they arguably have more experience than many other drivers on the road. At the same time, truck drivers deal with significant difficulties that can increase accident risk on the road.
Trucks weigh significantly more than passenger vehicles. Truck weight may vary based on the truck’s cargo as well as the type of truck. However, trucks may weigh 40 tons or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs only 2.5 tons. Trucks need significantly more stopping room than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to recognize the increased stopping needs of trucks and may dart in front of them without leaving adequate stopping room. Truck drivers may also struggle, even at the best of times, to react fast enough to prevent an accident.
Truck drivers often spend longer hours on the road than other drivers. Truck drivers may drive for up to eight hours before taking a break, and they can legally drive for 11 hours out of a 14-hour duty shift.
Many truck drivers stay on the road despite fatigue or drifting attention. They may struggle to pay attention to everything around them or lack focus on the road after those hours.
Trucks have more mass than passenger vehicles. They require more room to maneuver and often navigate roads designed for passenger vehicles rather than tractor trailers. As a result, trucks may travel slower. Driver impatience coupled with an inability to understand the needs of truck drivers may increase the risk of accidents with a tractor-trailer.
Truck drivers drive for a living. Many receive compensation by the mile. Truck drivers may increase the miles they can travel over an average work shift. Other truck drivers may work while sick, injured, or excessively fatigued from other activities before their duty shifts. If they do not work, they do not receive compensation, which for many makes driving under these conditions a necessity.
The average driver receives little education on big trucks. Most drivers receive little information about big trucks on the road, from the amount of space they need to maneuver to the time it takes them to stop. Unfortunately, this misinformation significantly increases accident risk when drivers fail to offer adequate patience and room for truckers.
Trucks have much more mass than the average passenger vehicle, and many vehicles have little protection against them. As a result, passengers in those vehicles may suffer severe injuries.
Avoiding a semi-truck accident may require careful attention to driving behavior on the road. You do not want to become a truck driving accident statistic! By paying careful attention to the rules of the road and leaving extra room for tractor-trailer drivers, you can reduce your risk of a severe tractor-trailer collision.
Truck drivers spend countless hours on the road every day. They go through extensive training before receiving their license to operate tractor trailers, and they arguably have more experience than many other drivers on the road. At the same time, however, truck drivers deal with significant difficulties that can increase accident risk on the road. Below we highlight some of those difficulties.
- Trucks weigh significantly more than passenger vehicles. Truck weight may vary based on the truck’s cargo as well as the type of truck. However, trucks may weigh 40 tons or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs only 2.5 tons. Trucks, therefore, need significantly more stopping room than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to recognize the increased stopping needs of trucks, and therefore may dart in front of them without leaving adequate stopping room. Truck drivers may also struggle, even at the best of times, to react fast enough to prevent an accident.
- Truck drivers often spend longer hours on the road than other drivers. Truck drivers may drive for up to eight full hours before taking a break, and they can legally drive for 11 hours out of a 14-hour duty shift. Many truck drivers stay on the road in spite of fatigue or drifting attention. They may struggle to pay attention to everything going on around them, or they may lack full focus on the road after those hours.
- Trucks have more mass than passenger vehicles. They require more room to maneuver and are often navigating roads designed for passenger vehicles rather than tractor trailers. As a result, trucks may travel slower. Driver impatience coupled with an inability to understand the needs of truck drivers may increase the risk of accidents with a tractor trailer.
- Truck drivers drive for a living. Many receive compensation by the mile. In some cases, truck drivers may take chances to increase the number of miles that they can travel over an average work shift. Other truck drivers may work while they are sick, injured, or excessively fatigued from other activities prior to their duty shifts. If they do not work, they do not receive compensation, which for many makes driving under these conditions a necessity.
- The average driver receives little education on big trucks. Most drivers receive little information about big trucks on the road, from the amount of space that they need to maneuver to the time it takes them to stop. Unfortunately, this misinformation significantly increases accident risk when drivers fail to offer adequate patience and room for truckers.
- Trucks often cause more serious damage. Trucks have much more mass than the average passenger vehicle, and many passenger vehicles have little protection against them. As a result, passengers in those vehicles may suffer more serious injuries.
Don’t Become a Semi-Truck Accident Statistic
With truck accidents that involve serious injuries and fatalities on the rise, you want to avoid becoming a statistic if at all possible. Big trucks continue to fill the roads, and to keep yourself safe, you should follow basic safety precautions, which are discussed below.
- Look out for blind spots. If you’ve ever driven a large vehicle, even a truck or van, you know that blind spots can make it impossible to see other cars moving around you. Tractor trailers have even larger blind spots, and those blind spots can lead to serious accidents, even if drivers exercise the utmost care. If you must drive beside or behind a tractor trailer, look for the truck driver’s mirrors. If you cannot see the mirror, the driver cannot see you. If possible, avoid sitting in a truck’s blind spot. If necessary, accelerate to move forward so that they can see you, or reduce your speed so that you fall behind them. If you must cruise beside a truck, pay attention to traffic patterns and the truck’s movements.
- Do not pull over abruptly in front of a tractor trailer. Tractor trailers need more room to stop than traditional vehicles. Pulling over abruptly in front of one, causing the driver to slam on the brakes, may cause an accident. Even if the truck misses you, the driver may lose control of the trailer and cause a jackknife accident. Keep in mind that trucks need significantly more room to stop than the average passenger vehicle, and plan your movements accordingly.
- Pay attention to truck drivers on the road. Truck drivers need to make wide turns. If they get pushed into too tight of a space, they may cause an accident or get stuck, which can increase the likelihood of accidents further down the road. If you see a truck driver signaling to turn, make sure that they have room to make that wide turn. Avoid cramming yourself into the space beside them, which could lead to an accident. If you see a truck driver showing visible signs of fatigue or driving under the influence, pull off the road and notify the police. Avoid trying to run down a truck driver yourself, even if you find his or her driving unsafe.
- Exercise patience. Many drivers quickly become frustrated when they must share the road with a tractor trailer. They likely want to get on with their day as soon as possible, and the truck’s presence may prevent that. If you share the road with a tractor trailer, however, exercise patience. The truck driver likely wants to get on with his or her day just as badly as you do, but no one wants to suffer injuries in an accident—which will create an even larger drain on your time.
- Keep your distance. Just as you should avoid driving for long stretches in a truck’s blind spot, try to avoid coming up right on a truck driver’s bumper. A smaller vehicle can get pushed under a truck during an accident. If you position yourself too close to a truck, the truck driver may back into you without noticing your presence. Pay particular attention on steep inclines, where the likelihood increases that a truck may roll backward.
Learn the right signals. If you flash your lights at truck drivers who need to change lanes, you are letting them know that they have room to move over. Likewise, a truck driver flashing his or her lights lets you know that you may safely move in front of him or her. Communicating safely with truck drivers on the road helps keep everyone safe.
- Learn how to pass safely. Getting stuck behind a big truck often causes frustration for drivers, especially those in a hurry to reach their destination. Zipping around a truck and darting straight in front of it, however, quickly leads to accidents. Instead, pass safely. Leave adequate room behind you for a truck to slow or brake if necessary.
You May Need a Lawyer After a Tractor Trailer Accident
If a tractor-trailer accident injures you, you may need legal help to secure compensation. Insurance companies may make it more difficult than anticipated to navigate your claim. Conversely, a lawyer can protect your rights and increase the odds that you will recover reasonable compensation for your injuries.
Contact a truck accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.
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