Truck Accident Statistics

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Large trucks deliver most of the goods we consume and use in our daily lives: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our mail order deliveries, the materials to build and renovate our homes, and even the vehicles we drive. It all comes by truck. The number of licensed heavy trucks on US roads has steadily increased and so has the number of big truck accidents.

Federal Department of Transportation records shows the number of reported accidents involving heavy trucks increased nationally by 40 percent between 2009 and 2017. More telling, the number of injury accidents swelled nationally from 60,000 in 2009 to 116,000 in 2017, according to the DOT.

The Number of Big Truck Crashes and Fatalities is Steadily Rising

Of the 450,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks nationally in 2017, there were 4,237 (1 percent) fatal crashes and 344,000 (23 percent) injury crashes, according to DOT reports. In 2017, the DOT records show a very telling statistic – 82 percent of fatalities were not occupants of the large truck.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in 2018 that in fatal collisions between a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck, 96 percent of the 2,133 fatalities occurred in the passenger vehicle.

More than anything else, that statistic shows that the occupants of ANY vehicle that comes into contact with a 20 to 40-ton semi are far more likely to be injured or perish in a big-truck accident.

Big Truck Accidents in Kentucky

In Kentucky, the University of Kentucky Transportation Center reported that in 2020 alone, there were over 11,000 collisions involving heavy trucks in Kentucky. Those accidents involved injuries to 2,181 people and 88 deaths.

Kentucky records show some surprising statistics about the 11,000 big truck wrecks that occur each year in Kentucky. Only about 21% of big truck wrecks occur interstates. About half occur on secondary highways and about a fourth occur on county or local roads.

Here are some sobering statistics from 2014 to 2020 in Kentucky:

  • Truck crashes increased by 19%.
  • Injury crashes increased by 58%.
  • Fatalities increased by 375%.

According to UK research, the following Western Kentucky counties have elevated numbers of big truck accidents based on their populations: Lyon, Marshall, Ballard, Caldwell, Trigg, Webster, Marshall, Graves and McCracken.

In 2018 – there were 1,411 Kentucky injury accidents involving big trucks and 94 fatal crashes.

According to UK research in 2018,  truck crashes accounted for  7.4  percent of all crashes,  6.2  percent of injury crashes, and a disproportionate 14.2 percent of fatal crashes. The majority of big truck accidents occurred on a weekday.

Stats on Big Truck Accidents Nationwide

The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s research on truck accident nationally shows concerning trends:

  • A total of 4,136 people died in large truck crashes in 2018. Only 16% of these deaths were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.
  • The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 31 percent higher in 2018 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it has been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.
  • The number of truck occupants who died was 51 percent higher than in 2009.

The last major causation study was done in 2007 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Hundreds of associated factors were collected for each vehicle in each crash. The top 10 factors for large trucks and their drivers were in decreasing order:

  1. Brake problems
  2. Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
  3. Prescription drug use
  4. Traveling too fast for conditions
  5. Unfamiliarity with roadway
  6. Roadway problems
  7. Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
  8. Over-the-counter drug use
  9. Inadequate surveillance
  10. Fatigue

The FMSCA also assigns a relative risk number to the factors in big truck accidents. The following table lists crash factors and the relative risk associated with them.

Factors Number of Trucks Percent of Total Relative Risk
Vehicle: Brake problems 41,000 29% 2.7
Driver: Traveling too fast for conditions 32,000 23% 7.7
Driver: Unfamiliar with roadway 31,000 22% 2.0
Environment: Roadway problems 29,000 20% 1.5
Driver: Over-the-counter drug use 25,000 17% 1.3
Driver: Inadequate surveillance 20,000 14% 9.3
Driver: Fatigue 18,000 13% 8.0
Driver: Felt under work pressure from carrier 16,000 10% 4.7
Driver: Made illegal maneuver 13,000 9% 26.4
Driver: Inattention 12,000 9% 17.1
Driver: External distraction 11,000 8% 5.1
Vehicle: Tire problems 8,000 6% 2.5
Driver: Following too close 7,000 5% 22.6
Driver: Jackknife 7,000 5% 4.7
Vehicle: Cargo shift 6,000 4% 56.3
Driver: Illness 4,000 3% 34.0
Driver: Internal distraction 3,000 2% 5.8
Driver: Illegal drugs 3,000 2% 1.8
Driver: Alcohol 1,000 1% 5.3

(Source) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Retain a Truck Accident Lawyer

It is important that you obtain the services of an experienced truck accident attorney if you’ve been involved in an accident involving a commercial truck. There could be multiple insurance coverages and multiple layers of insurance involved which require extensive investigation and negotiation. There may also be coverage available from freight brokers and other entities connected with a freight shipment.

An experienced truck accident attorney can collect evidence and accident reports, accurately determine the costs of past, current and future medical care; obtain compensation for damages to your vehicle, lost income or wages, and may pursue punitive damages if there is egregious conduct involved. Truck accidents can involve fatalities or serious physical injuries. Sometimes trucking companies will create a separate corporate entity for each truck to limit liability.

Mark Bryant
About the Author
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