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30 U.S. Truck Accident Statistics [2021]

The trucking industry keeps America’s wheels turning, delivering 71% of all freight in the U.S annually. The $700 billion industry is also one of the largest employers in the country, employing more than 5% of full-time employees.

Truck deliveries are a lifeline between products and consumers — everything from essential items like groceries and medicine to online Amazon orders arrive on wheels. Truck drivers are often the unsung heroes in disasters and unprecedented events, working around the clock to deliver critical aid when communities need it most. Yet, despite our reliance on big rig transport, these vehicles can carry a truckload of safety risks for other drivers on the road. Below, we’ve compiled a list of truck accident statistics to understand why accidents happen and learn how to reduce risk.

Size is the biggest risk factor when it comes to semi-trailers. When cars and other vehicles get in truck accidents, serious injury or death is much more likely to occur in passenger vehicles due to the size and density of the semi-trailer.

Read on to learn about the common causes and statistics surrounding truck accidents. We also discuss tips for maintaining fleet safety, and what to do if you or a loved one is involved in a crash.

How Many Truck Drivers Are in the U.S.?

There are more than 3.5 million employed truck drivers in the U.S. today. The industry is dominated by men who make up 90% of the truck driving workforce. There are some other demographics that set trucking apart from other industries: the median age for drivers is 46, and an estimated 1 in 10 truck drivers are veterans.

Truck drivers also work longer hours than other Americans and make less than the average full-time worker, but more than other blue collar workers. Unfortunately, these longer hours increase the risk of big rig accidents on the road.

List of important facts about trucking in the US

How Many Accidents are Caused by Semi-Trucks?

Large trucks were involved in 112,000 injury crashes and 414,000 property damage-only crashes in 2018. Semi-trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times as much as other passenger vehicles on the road. This excess size makes crashes especially dangerous — in fact, the majority of deaths in semi-truck accidents are persons riding in passenger vehicles.

Truck Accident Causes

Like other vehicle crashes, truck accidents are complex. Several driver, vehicle, and environmental factors can help contribute to a crash. Driver fatigue, distracted driving, and driving under the influence are three factors that can greatly increase the risk of collision. Here are some more common causes of big rig accidents.

  • 32% of truck accidents involve collisions outside of the travel lane, either in other lanes or off the road.

    FMCSA
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  • Truck drivers drive an estimated 140 billion miles every year, and they work longer hours than average workers in America — this fatigue contributes to crashes.

    Z Modal
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  • All truck drivers have had a handheld cell phone ban on interstate highways since 2012.

    FMCSA
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  • 6% of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug in 2018.

    FMCSA
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  • An estimated 29% of truck crashes involve vehicle loss of control, followed by colliding with the rear end of another vehicle (22%).

    FMCSA
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  • Loaded-tractor trailers need up to 40% more space to stop than passenger vehicles meaning the driver has less time to react to other drivers and road conditions.

    IIHS
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  • A growing problem on the road, distracted driving often goes underreported but resulted in at least 2,841 lives lost in 2018.

    NHTSA
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Most Dangerous Roads In U.S. For Truckers

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S., which isn’t surprising when paired with the fact that transportation is the number one cause of fatalities on the clock. Sadly, some roads are more dangerous for truck drivers than others.

Here’s a list of the 10 most dangerous roads in the U.S.:

  1. I-10 in Alabama
  2. I-95 in Florida
  3. HWY-75 in Idaho
  4. I-40 in Arkansas
  5. US-1 in Florida
  6. M-20 in Michigan
  7. I-80 Nebraska
  8. HWY-5 in Colorado
  9. I-70 in Maryland
  10. SC-35 South Carolina
Map of the USA with most dangerous roads for truckers highlighted

Semi-Truck Accident Statistics

Also known as tractor-trailers, semi-trucks are a necessary part of the delivery cycle. With 3.5 million truck drivers on the road each year, trucking accidents are bound to happen. Here’s a look at where and why these crashes occur.

  • Tractor-trailer trucks caused 46% more fatalities than single-unit trucks in 2018.

    IIHS
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  • When it comes to crashes, tractor-trailers are the most dangerous trucks on the road.

    FMCSA
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  • 30% of truck and bus crashes in 2019 were in Texas, California, and Florida.

    FMCSA
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  • Semi-trucks account for 42% of all miles driven by commercial vehicles on U.S. roadways.

    FHWA
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  • In 2018, at least 112,000 injury crashes and 414,000 property damage-only crashes involved large trucks.

    FMCSA
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Fatal Truck Accident Facts

Semi-truck accidents can quickly turn deadly. The size and density of the big rig play a role in damages and fatality rates. Read on to learn about the frequency of truck fatalities and where and when accidents are most likely to occur.

  • In 2018, 50% of deaths from large truck crashes occurred between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.

    IIHS
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  • 4,136 people died in large truck crashes in 2018, 31% higher than in 2009, when truck fatalities were the lowest ever recorded.

    IIHS
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  • October was the deadliest month for truck crashes in 2018.

    NHTSA
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  • Trucks account for nearly 1 in 10 highway deaths yet only make up 4% of vehicles on the road.

    IIHS
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  • Deaths in large truck crashes are most likely to occur on major roads (52%), compared to interstates and freeways (33%) or minor roads (14%).

    IIHS
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  • Most fatal truck crashes occur in rural areas, during the daytime, on weekdays.

    NHTSA
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  • Large trucks are involved in 9% of fatal crashes on U.S. roadways.

    Injury Facts
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Truck vs Car Accident Statistics

While trucks get a reputation for being dangerous, the truth is cars carry most of the blame for collisions on the road. In this section, we take a look at big rig accidents and how cars play a role.

  • Road crashes are predicted to be the 5th leading cause of death in the United States by 2030.

    WHO
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  • Cars are responsible for anywhere from 80% to 91% of truck accidents.

    ATA
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  • Of those who died in truck crashes in 2018, 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, 16% were truck occupants, and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

    IIHS
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  • Speeding heightens fatality risk in truck and car accidents: 9,378 Americans lost their lives to speeding in 2018.

    NHTSA
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More Truck Facts and Tips for Safe Fleet Management

Large trucks are considered any truck with a gross vehicle weight greater than 10,000 pounds, excluding buses and motorhomes. This increased size makes maintaining truck regulations key to safety on the road. Read on for more truck facts and tips for managing a truck fleet of your own.

  • There are more than 14,226,062 large trucks and buses registered in the U.S.

    FMCSA
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  • The number of trucking businesses in the U.S. grew 15.9% from 2012 and 2016, outpacing growth across all industries (8%).

    U.S. Census Bureau
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  • Trucking employs more than 3.5 million drivers and 5% of all full-time employees.

    U.S. Census Bureau
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  • The average salary for an American truck driver is $43,252.

    U.S. Census Bureau
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  • The weight of a tractor-trailer ranges between 5,000 pounds empty and up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded.

    FHWA
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  • Drivers can’t log more than 60 hours over 7 consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 consecutive days per federal regulation.

    FMCSA
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  • National weight standards are applied on the 40,000+ miles of Interstate Highway System.

    FHWA
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How to Maintain a Safe Truck Fleet

As an employer, taking steps to maintain a safe truck fleet is top priority. It ensures that your employees are healthy, other motorists on the road aren’t at risk, and that your bottom line won’t be impacted by a tragic accident. Below are tips to minimize risk and keep your truck drivers safe on the roads.

  1. Use software to streamline and track truck maintenanceNew online tools are making record-keeping for truck maintenance easier than ever. Track and schedule service reminders, save driver preferences, and manage equipment usage with software.
  2. Never exceed the legal truck-weightFederal guidelines around truck weights help protect workers and other drivers on the road. Your gross vehicle weight should never exceed 80,000 pounds on any Interstate Highway in the U.S.
  3. Keep up with your tires Since tires won’t need to be changed out all at once or on a specific schedule, inspecting tire pressure and wear issues regularly is key to safe and smooth driving.
  4. Communicate regularly with your drivers Don’t let your drivers drive blind. Dispatchers should regularly inform drivers of road challenges, alternative routes, and last-minute changes.
  5. Instill pride with clean vehicles Keeping your vehicles clean and polished leads drivers to greater job satisfaction, plus it puts out a good company image for your brand.
  6. Crack down on drowsy driving Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence. Prioritize following federal hours of service regulations and don’t give driver’s dangerous incentives to log extra hours for faster deliveries.

Semi-truck accidents can be both terrifying and dangerous. In addition to injuries, victims may experience heightened stress and anxiety following a trucking crash. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, do some research on how to get what you deserve in an accident settlement.