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Fatality Facts 2021Large trucks

Overview

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 require 20%-40% more distance than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes. Truck driver fatigue is also 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., & Solomon, M. G. (2008). Work schedules of long-distance truck drivers before and after 2004 hours-of-service rule change. Traffic Injury Prevention, 9, 201-210.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s . Posted May 2023.

Where and when large truck crashes occurred

Forty-eight percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2021 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 36% occurred on interstates and freeways, and 16% occurred on minor roads.
Deaths in large truck crashes by road type, 2021
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,676 36
Other major roads 2,282 48
Minor roads 749 16
All road types* 4,714 100
Fifty percent of large truck crash deaths in 2021 occurred from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., compared with 28% of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by time of day, 2021
Time of day Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Midnight - 3 a.m. 395 8 4,680 12 5,075 12
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 464 10 3,165 8 3,629 8
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 753 16 3,187 8 3,940 9
9 a.m. - noon 737 16 3,057 8 3,794 9
Noon - 3 p.m. 847 18 4,436 12 5,283 12
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 654 14 5,891 15 6,545 15
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 462 10 7,057 18 7,519 18
9 p.m. - midnight 396 8 6,431 17 6,827 16
Total* 4,714 100 38,225 100 42,939 100
Sixteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2021 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 35% of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
Deaths in large truck crashes and other crashes by day of week, 2021
Day of Week Large truck crashes Other crashes All crashes
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Sunday 339 7 6,462 17 6,801 16
Monday 763 16 4,816 13 5,579 13
Tuesday 751 16 4,468 12 5,219 12
Wednesday 853 18 4,412 12 5,265 12
Thursday 842 18 4,896 13 5,738 13
Friday 754 16 6,187 16 6,941 16
Saturday 412 9 6,984 18 7,396 17
Total* 4,714 100 38,225 100 42,939 100

Comparison of large truck and passenger vehicle crashes

Fifty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2021 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was 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 (21%) involving rollovers.
Occupant deaths by rollover occurrence and vehicle type, 2021
Vehicle type No rollover Rollover All crashes
Number % Number % Number %
Large truck 363 48 393 52 756 100
SUV 4,129 62 2,507 38 6,636 100
Pickup 2,900 60 1,955 40 4,855 100
Car 11,684 79 3,060 21 14,744 100
Total* 25,815 75 8,475 25 34,290 100
Fifty-eight percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2021 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 44% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.
Occupant deaths in large trucks and passenger vehicles by number of vehicles involved, 2021
Crash type Large truck occupants Passenger vehicle occupants
Number % Number %
Single-vehicle 435 58 11,623 44
Multiple-vehicle 321 42 14,962 56
All crashes* 756 100 26,585 100
Seventeen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2021 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 35% 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, 2021
Crash type Large trucks Passenger vehicles
Number % Number %
Single vehicle 796 17 16,978 35
Two vehicles 2,783 61 22,388 47
> 2 vehicles 1,016 22 8,691 18
All crashes* 4,595 100 48,057 100
Forty-nine percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2021 were using seat belts, which was similar to fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers (45%). However, belt use was unknown for 19% of fatally injured large truck drivers, compared with 10% of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.
Seat belt use among fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers, 2021
Belt use Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Number % Number %
Belt used 331 49 9,071 45
Unbelted 210 31 9,177 45
Unknown 128 19 2,013 10
Total 669 100 20,261 100
Thirty-one percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a large truck in 2021 were in vehicles struck head-on by the truck and another 24% were in vehicles that were side-struck by the truck. Twenty-three 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, 2021
Large truck Passenger vehicle Total
Front Side Rear Other
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
Front 773 31 603 24 103 4 18 1 1,497 60
Side 292 12 49 2 3 <1 5 <1 349 14
Rear 585 23 31 1 0 0 1 <1 617 25
Other 12 <1 3 <1 0 0 17 1 32 1
Total 1,662 67 686 27 106 4 41 2 2,495 100
Large truck drivers killed in fatal crashes are much less likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Truck drivers are subject to strict government regulations concerning drinking and driving. Five percent of fatally injured large truck drivers had BACs at or above 0.08% in 2021. That proportion is far below the 17% seen in 1982. For comparison, 30% of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2021 had BACs at or above 0.08%, down from 51% in 1982.
Estimated percent and number of fatally injured large truck and passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥0.08%, 1982-2021
Year Large truck drivers Passenger vehicle drivers
Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number Number %
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 590 17 3 17,641 5,149 29
2017 604 29 5 17,751 5,116 29
2018 583 18 3 17,263 4,957 29
2019 601 15 3 16,878 4,791 28
2020 556 40 7 18,316 5,540 30
2021 669 34 5 20,261 6,115 30
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