• WHERE AND WHEN LARGE TRUCK CRASHES OCCURRED
• COMPARISON OF LARGE TRUCK AND PASSENGER VEHICLE CRASHES
Based on their numbers on the road and on the amount they travel, large trucks (tractor-trailers, single-unit trucks, and some cargo vans weighing more than 10,000 pounds) account for more than their share of highway deaths. Large trucks have higher fatal crash rates per mile traveled than passenger vehicles, although a higher percentage of large truck travel occurs on interstates, the safest roads.
Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants rather than occupants of large trucks. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars.
Truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater when trailers are empty, on wet and slippery roads, or with poorly maintained brakes.1 Truck driver fatigue also is 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 and up to 77 hours over a 7-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted.2,3,4
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS):
• A total of 5,079 people died in large truck crashes in 2004, up 4 percent from 2003. Fifteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 72 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 11 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Large truck crash deaths have declined 22 percent overall since 1979, when they were at an all-time high. There has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (46 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (13 percent).