Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Truck Accident Statistics

Truck Accident Statistics

Vehicular accidents are the most crucial causes of lifetime injuries, and in many cases fatalities, in the United States. Hundreds of accidents occur every day, with a majority of them causing injuries ranging from minor to devastatingly serious, and thousands of families are affected every year. The consequences of these accidents is bound to multiply in magnitude when the vehicle involved is a truck especially big-rigs, tractor-trailers, eighteen-wheelers etc. Accidents occurring due to commercial trucks are generally far more catastrophic than those involving other vehicles. This is due to a number of factors.

The trucking industry of the United States is massive and generates $603.9 billion in gross weight demonstrating 80.9% of United States total freight bill in 2011. According to the American Trucking Association, trucks are responsible for moving 67% of the country’s freight requirements. A huge number of companies function in the US Trucking Industry. It is estimated that as of December 2010 the total number of for-hire carriers were 408,782 with private carriers totaling to an astounding 662,544 and various others being 168,680. In 2013, the trucking industry utilized a massive 523,000,000,000 gallons per year of diesel fuel. The amount of load in a commercial truck, when it is fully loaded, is an astounding 80,000 pounds; and in comparison to the average weight of a vehicle being about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds. Commercial trucks are massive in terms of capacity and you can only imagine the amount of damage they cause. The large weight and bulkiness of these commercial trucks restrict the process of turning and moving the truck. This makes the job of the driver even more difficult as even the slightest error on the driver’s part can cause the truck to lose balance and control and may result in a devastating accident not only for the driver of the truck but also for all other drivers present on the road.

Apart from direct collisions, another form of accidents that occur are under ride accidents where a vehicle slides beneath large tractor-trailers. The consequences of these accidents are far too real and dreadful than those depicted in some fast-paced Hollywood action movies. There is no doubt that truck drivers are trained to be far more cautious while driving than an average causal driver but the massive loads and size of the truck cause accidents everyday on the roads. Sadly, it would be hard to ever eliminate truck accidents, so one must always drive with the utmost caution.

Another major contributing factor towards truck accidents is the condition of the roads in the United States. If you have had the opportunity to drive across America or even if you travelled beyond a few state lines, you must have noticed the worsening conditions of the roads. In 1919, a convoy, commissioned by the War Department was supposed to travel from the east coast to the west coast. As of today, the Interstate Highway System has laid 42,795 miles of roads all over the country. These roads were not built in order to last forever as the roads today in the US are covered with cracks, potholes and even asphalt that is cracking and is rough.

Initially, the road network was excellent for cars due to the fact that trains transported most freight. The railroads performed this job to the best of their ability but the time consumed by them proved unaffordable. This is where the trucks came in as many companies quickly acknowledged that the interstate was a faster option. With the introduction of trucks on roads, companies had more control over the timing of the deliveries and they could provide prompt deliveries. However, there arose one specific problem, which was the inability of the road planners to predict the importance of trucks as a mode of shipping, and thus the damage perpetrated by trucks on American roads was quick.

The creation of potholes is a slow and gradual process. Water finds a place underneath the asphalt when the roads are not adequately sealed and thus settled in the small space between the pavement and the material that is used for the base of roads. The compact water pocket gets pushed down as trucks drive over the roads and since the water has no other place to go, due to the gravity exerted on it, the water goes deep down and the dirt is forced out in this manner. This process creates a large space beneath the pavement and with the passage of time, the air/water pocket gradually depletes the top layers of the roads and they begin to crack eventually causing bigger and bigger holes.

Building roads is a complex process as the balance between the initial construction cost and the continued maintenance of the roads has to be maintained. For this particular reason, roads need to be constructed with a concrete foundation. This would help reduce highway accidents by reducing maintenance costs and eliminating cracks, holes, and defects in the roadway surfaces. Only then roads would not require hefty maintenance. If roads were given a solid foundation, the cracking of the surface would occur less frequently. However, in order to construct such durable roads a large amount of money has to be invested initially.

Engineers responsible for the construction of roads have this responsibility of predicting exactly how much the roads will be used and for what purpose. However, this prediction proves futile especially for areas where a growing population and growth of manufacturing facilities are seen. In these areas, the amount of vehicles increase and the load being carried on the roads rises, in turn increasing costs of maintenance and decreasing the life of the roads. Hence, it is vital to construct roads keeping the growing needs of people and vehicles in mind, especially heavy weight vehicles such a trucks. Cutting corners will only prove to be disadvantageous in the long run and will continue to cause more truck accidents.

Apart from the above-mentioned causes, other contributing factors towards truck accidents include usage of drugs while driving, carelessness of truck drivers combined with the fatigue caused by long hours and exhaustion faced by drivers. Another crucial reason behind truck accidents is due to the mistake of drivers of passenger vehicles. This is because, the public sharing the roads with commercial trucks are not aware of the dynamics of such large trucks. The public is not aware of aspects such as no-zones, off-tracks and stopping distances that are required when travelling with such large vehicles and thus collisions occur between trucks and other vehicles. Many of these bulky trucks carry hazardous materials and when such trucks face accidents, the danger to the traveling public is increased. This distinction exists because of the unusual dangers volatile and hazardous materials being transported over long distances by fatigued truck drivers.

Under the US federal laws and regulations knows as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) which is administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT) along with its adjunct administrative agency the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), regulations were developed to prevent truck drivers from operating over interstate and intrastate highways for more than a certain number of hours per day and per week. the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations issued under 49 C.F.R. §§ 380 through 399 which are enforceable pursuant to the Motor Carrier Act, PL 96-296, 1980 S 2245 and PL 96-296, July 1, 1980, 94 Stat 793. 49 C.F.R. § 390.3(e)(1) & (2) provide that every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding and shall comply with all applicable regulations contained in the FMCSR. 49 C.F.R. § 390.5 provides that "motor carrier" means a for-hire motor carrier or a private motor carrier. That term includes a motor carrier's agents, officers, and representatives as well as employees responsible for hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers. 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(2) provides that "A carrier . . . is liable for damages sustained by a person as a result of an action or omission of that carrier. . . in violation of this part.”

49 U.S.C. § 14101(a) provides that "a motor carrier shall provide safe and adequate service, equipment and facilities." The FMSCRs are located at 49 C.F.R. § 380 et seq. The FMCSRs and the MCA specifically under the section 49 C.F.R. § 391.1(a) and (b) state, “(a) The rules in this part establish minimum qualifications for persons who drive commercial motor vehicles, as, for, or on behalf of motor carriers. The rules in this part also establish minimum duties of motor carriers with respect to the qualification of drivers. (b) A motor carrier who employs himself/herself as a driver must comply with both the rules in this part that apply to motor carriers and the rules in this part that apply to drivers.” 49 C.F.R. § 390.11 imposes duties on the motor carrier to follow the minimum duties and industry minimum standard of care required by the FMCSR and states, “Whenever in part 325 of subchapter A or in this subchapter a duty is prescribed for a driver or a prohibition is imposed upon the driver, it shall be the duty of the motor carrier to require observance of such duty or prohibition. If the motor carrier is a driver, the driver shall likewise be bound.

Many motor carriers violate the minimum duties and standards of care set forth under 49 CFR § 395.8 by failing to adequately document the driver’s record of duty status. They violate the minimum duties and standards of care set forth under 49 CFR §§ 395.1 through 395.3 by requiring drivers to work in excess of the maximum hours and days allowed by Federal laws and regulations. They violate these regulations under 49 C.F.R. § 392.3 by requiring its drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.

Motor carriers sometimes fail to set up adequate safety systems which then causes their drivers to operate on time deadlines that do not look to nor care about the hours-of-services regulations. They violate the minimum duties and standards of care set forth under 49 CFR § 383.113 by failing to have adequate safety management controls in place that would require and provide that drivers had the required skills required under this regulation.

More importantly, they violate these minimum duties and industry standards of care as set forth under 49 CFR § 391.11 and 391.23 by failing to properly qualify the driver, failing to obtain the federally required information on the application for employment of their driver which requires an investigation of the driver’s safety performance history with the D.O.T. regulated employers during the preceding three years and which further requires the prospective motor carrier must investigate at a minimum, the information listed in this paragraph from all previous employers of the applicant.

Another significant and reckless problem with the motor carrier exists where they violate the minimum duties and standards of care set forth under 49 CFR § 391.31 by failing to properly road test their drivers. This regulation requires that a person shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle unless he/she has first successfully completed a road test and has been issued a certificate of driver’s road test in accordance with this section and further requires that the road test must be of sufficient duration to enable the person who gives it to evaluate he skill of the person who takes it at handling the commercial motor vehicle, and at a minimum the person who takes the test must be tested, while operating the type of commercial the motor carrier intends to assign to the driver including the evaluation of pretrip inspections required by § 392.7, coupling and uncoupling, use of controls and emergency equipment, passing, turning, braking, backing and completion of the road test form to rate the performance of the driver and have the driver sign the road test form. Failure to implement any of these systems leads to an overall system of intentional and reckless failure to follow federally required safety systems. The failure to comply with the safety standards leads to death and injury of the motoring public.

A number of government and private studies of motor carriers and drivers has lead to the conclusion that many motor carriers and their drivers fail to comply with hours-of-service regulations and cause the drivers to work longer than permitted. Working longer than allowed cause’s fatigue, which leads to accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a safety study entitled the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) which was concluded in 2009 and then published in 2010. This study analyzed the FMCSA’s Safety Challenge. The basic thesis of the study was that “A growing carrier population and stable/unchanging FMCSA resources call for a more efficient and effective program.” The study ultimately developed “The Response CSA 2010.” This included the development of a pro-active safety program based on a scientific model which would do the following:

1)Promote accountability and strong enforcement as to priorities;

2)Extends FMCSA’s reach to more carriers and drivers with safety problems;

3)Identifies FMCSS’s ability to identify safety problems earlier through better use of data.

This study was based in six states, including the State of Missouri where 50% of the motor carrier population is covered. A system known as BASICS was developed. This acronym stands for the following:

Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories or BASICs’

Unsafe Driving;

Fatigued Driving;

Driver Fitness;

Controlled Substances/Alcohol;

Vehicle Maintenance;

Improper Loading/Cargo;

Crash Indicator.

The CSA 2010’s Comprehensive Intervention Process provides more tools to reach motor carriers and compel safety compliance before crashes occur. This is done through a system of warning letters, investigations (including on-site comprehensive investigations) to get enhance compliance review. It additionally includes taking corrective actions requiring motor carriers and drivers to be taken Out-of-Services (OOS) with orders by the FMCSA. It further includes notices of violations to the motor carrier, notice of claims to the motor carrier and provides for a Cooperative Safety Plan. In essence, the FMCSA and this program attempt to predict crash indicators through violation of safety systems and then study the What, Why and How of the violation history of motor carriers to study why the system is breaking down and then provides a procedural system for the motor carrier to address their breakdowns and improve their safety record to prevent further accidents from occurring.

One method of promoting safety and making drivers comply with hours-of-service regulations is by the installation of electronic recorders on board of all commercial trucks so that drivers comply with the FMCSR. The recorders erase the need for handwritten logbooks, which can be easily fabricated. Many truck drivers carry two sets of books. One for actual time and the second to show the law enforcement officers when they are stopped for roadside safety checks.

Statistics on the Number of trucks on US roads

The US trucking industry has many facets. The trucking industry in itself is massive and comprises of a large number of motor carriers. As of 2009, 26.4 million trucks were registered and used primarily for business purposes. This excludes the use of government and farm and represented 24.4% of all the truck registered. In 2009, the class 8 trucks used for business purposes was 2.4 million as compared to 2.3 million class 8 trucks in 2010. The amount of commercial trailers registered in 2009 alone was 5.7 million. The companies involved in the trucking industry, the warehouses and the private sector employ approximately 8.9 million people in trucking-related jobs of which almost 3.5 million are truck drivers.

Accounting for almost 13.6% of America’s truck sector are the LTL shippers. Additionally, out of the 3.5 million truck drivers employed, UPS employs almost 60,000 workers. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of trucks operating in the US but it is estimated that as of today 15.5 million trucks function on the roads of US of which 2 million are tractor trailers. Based on the statistics provided by the United States Department of Transportation, as of 2010, the amount of people employed in the trucking industry were 6.8 million, and out of this figure, 3 million were truck drivers alone. Based on statistics provided by uShip, in 2013, 761,850 tractor trailer drivers were present along with 49,920 light truck and delivery drivers all-consuming an average salary of $37,770 annually.

Additionally, of the 3.5 million truck drivers present, one out of nine are sovereign and the majority of these are owner operators. A large number of trucking companies function in the US, both state owned and private motor carriers. It is estimated that there are a total of 1.2 million trucking companies out of which 97% function with 20 or fewer trucks and 90% work with 6 or fewer trucks. The number of trucks in the last 10 years have increased greatly. In 1991, the approximate number of trucks in the US were 4,480,815 and as of 2011, this number has increased to 7,819,055 trucks. The trucking industry is massive and trucks are on the go 24/7. Statistics on uShip for the year 2013 indicates that goods worth $139,463,000,000 were transported during the year by trucks. This means goods worth $382,090,411 per day and $4,422 per second were transported and shipped across our nation’s highways.

Data collected from a number of sources helps us in determining the US truck fleet by use. In thousands, as of 2012 total trucks in fleet round up to 6331, with business use being of 2187, government with 1560 and rental trucks (not including vans and SUVs) accounting for 465 of the total truck fleet. In order to provide a more clear idea as to the size of the trucks present on the US roads, the following data from 2002 categorizes trucks into three distinct categories namely lightweight trucks, medium weight trucks and heavy weight trucks. All the weights are in pounds (lb.). As of 2002, the combined weight of all trucks present on the US roads was 85,174 (in thousands) with light trucks weighing 79,759 pounds (in thousands), medium trucks being 1,914 (in thousands) and heavy trucks weighing 2,590 (in thousands).

In terms of revenue generated by the US trucking industry, the total revenue estimated is 255.5 billion, of which private fleets generated approximately 121 billion. The average operating ratio of trucking companies is 95.2 meaning that for each dollar in revenues, on average each trucking company incurs a cost of 95.2 cents giving them a profit of 4.8 cents of every dollar. Despite the number of accidents faced by trucks each year and the amount of fatalities incurred, working as a truck driver is an option for many. On average, a truck driver makes 30.3 cents per mile accounting to an average yearly income of $32,000. Furthermore, due to the increased use of trucks as a means of transportation in today’s world, naturally they use up a large proportion of the fuel. Out of the total fuel by the transportation industry, trucks consume an average 53.9 billion gallons of fuel for businesses.

Number of Miles Driven By Trucks on the US Roads

The US economy comprises of a large part of the trucking industry and companies like Road Scholar Transport are carrying freight around the clock on a 24/7 basis of operation. Considering the size of the trucking industry and its importance, a probing aspect that arises is as to how many miles trucks travel every year. Based on research by Department of Transportation, they state that billions of miles are travelled each year by Class 8 trucks. Typically, class 8 trucks are those that weigh 33,000 pounds or more and are known as tractor-trailers. Statistics compiled from a number of sources show that in 2011, the number of miles (in millions) travelled by trucks, particularly singe-unit 2-axle 6 tire or more trucks, were 103,515 miles.

Further research conducted on trucks specifically breaks down the total number of miles, travelled both in urban and rural areas. Total number of vehicle miles (in millions) in both rural and urban areas totaled up to 266,963 in 2007 of which 119,617 were of rural highway and 107,346 were of the urban highway. Furthermore, the total passenger miles in 2007 (in millions) were 226, 963 out of which single-unit trucks travelled (in millions) 81,954 miles and combination trucks travelled 145,008 miles. Additionally, the average number of miles travelled by all trucks in 2007 (in millions) was 25,141. Single-unit trucks accounted for 12,040 miles whereas combination trucks travelled 65,290 miles. The amount lodged by all trucks in 2010, primarily for business purposes was 397.8 billion miles. Of this amount, trucks alone traveled 29.8%. Class 6-8 trucks, in 2010, accounted for 131.2 billion miles and in 2010 class 8 trucks alone contributed to 99.2 billion miles.

When talking about the number of miles travelled by trucks in US, it is vital to know the volume of goods that are being transported by the US trucking industry. Trucks deliver 70 percent of all the freight transported yearly. This sector accounts for $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods that are transported.

Average Speed

Along with miles travelled, it is also crucial to know the average speed at which drivers are allowed to operate on US interstate highways. This information is not only vital for truck drivers but also for all passengers on the road in order to stay well informed with their surroundings and avoid accidents. A number of selected U.S interstate highways and along with their average truck operating speed are as follows. The data is as of 2009:

Interstate Route

Average Speed in Miles per hour





















Specification of Trucks on Us Roads

When talking about the logistics industry, areas such as production, procurement, disposal, global, distribution, domestic and concierge logistics are all the various fields of it. The field of logistics is widespread and it encompasses business logistics, which is comprised of a number of segments of the business industry. The basic aim of logistics is to manage supply chains, the different stages of a project and the subsequent efficiencies gained from it. It is crucial to have knowledge of the field of logistics for a number of reasons.

Logistics primarily deals with the management of the flow of resources from the starting point up to the point where the resource is consumed. Only by knowing the depths of the process of logistics can a company execute the delivery process perfectly and meet not only the requirements of the end customer but also of the corporation. For many industries, logistics play a major role in enhancing the present production of the company along with its distribution processes. By the undertaking of an efficient logistics operation, competitiveness and the productivity of an industry can be promoted. Transportation, being the central aspect of logistics, helps in joining separate activities and it effects the performance of a logistics company.

The reason why trucks are increasingly useful in commercial transportation is due to their ability to provide efficient circulation of all types of goods. The main aim behind trucking logistics is to guarantee that its operations are successfully fulfilling the distinctive requirements of the trucking industry. People responsible in trucking logistics industry are responsible for not only examining the various trucking routes but also have the responsibility of looking for ways to enhance efficiency and produce a reduction in the delivery times. The time of delivery can be one of the most significant factors in causing tractor-trailer accidents. Truck drivers are often punished by reduction in pay, reprimands and/or termination for late and untimely deliveries. This system of delivery is predictable. If you require a driver to be on-time for delivery at all costs, it will lead to the driver violation the DOT and FMCSR regulations on maximum hours-of service.

In order to determine the best type of truck required for the job, it is vital to classify the particular type of load and size of the load that needs to be transported. Due to the ever-increasing number of accidents caused by trucks, it becomes crucial to develop a good delivery plan for the various routes used in order to ensure that drivers follow the FMCSR and rules on hours-of-service as well as to ensure the safe transportation of the goods.

Due to the increased importance of transportation in the field of logistics, it comes with no surprise that today we get to see a large number of classes of trucks in the transportation industry. Among the various classes, one important category is a group known as forklift trucks. These trucks are backed up the consumption of various fuels such as gasoline, diesel, electrical battery, liquid propane gas and compressed natural gas. One of the most popular categories of the forklift truck used in the logistics industry is the electric motor rider truck. This form comes in inflated or cushion tires and is a versatile class frequently found in storage facilities and in loading docks. Another class of forklift trucks is the internal combustion engine truck that is mostly used for the transportation of loads that are palletized. Various other types of forklift trucks that are used for logistics include the rough terrain trucks and the electric motor narrow aisle trucks.

The logistics industry utilizes the popular tent vehicle plus trailer that carries a loading capacity of 16 to 25 tons. This truck comes with a number of advantages including the ability to provide fast loading and easy unloading along with a greater loading volume. One drawback is its inability to be used for long-distance cargos. Another useful and popular truck used in this industry in the refrigerated truck, which is vital for the transportation of perishable goods. An isotherm truck is basically used for the transportation of food stuff and various other truck used in the logistics industry are the flatbed, trail life, semi-trailer and the jumbo trailer truck.

Classes of trucks

When a vehicle is manufactured it is assigned a gross vehicle weight rating. Based on this information, there are predominantly eight truck types on US roads as of today. The eight classes, along with the different types of trucks in each class, are as follows:

1.Class 1- 6,000 and Less


Cargo van


Pick Up Truck

2.Class 2- 6,001 to 10,000


Cargo Van

Full-Size Pickup

Step Van

3.Class 3- 10,001 to 14,000


Box Truck

City Delivery

Heavy-Duty Pickup

4.Class 4- 14,001 to 16,000

Large Walk-In

Box Truck

City Delivery

5.Class 5- 16,001 to 19,500

Bucket Truck

Large Walk-In

City Delivery

6.Class 6- 19,501 to 26,000

Beverage Truck


School Bus

Rack Truck

7.Class 7- 26,001 to 33,000



City Transit Bus

Truck Tractor

8.Class 8- 33,001 & Over

Cement Truck

Truck Tractor

Dump Truck


Types of trucks

A number of different types of trucks function every day on US roads. Following, are a number of trucks categorized according to their capacity and the purpose they serve in transportation.

1.Tent, Semi-trailer: This is the most common type of truck found on US roads and is most frequently used a large variety of cargos. In these type of trucks loading can either take place from sideway or above by the removal of the tent cover of the semi-trailer. This truck comprises of a loading capacity of 20-25tons with a useful volume of 60-92 cbm. and a total capacity of 22-33 euro-pallets.

2.Tent “Jumbo”: This is another category of the semi-trailer but has a larger capacity due to the “G” shape of the floor of the truck and also because of the reduced diameter of the wheels. This truck comes with a loading capacity of 20tons, useful volume of 96-125cbm. and a total capacity of 33 euro-pallets.

3.Truck Trailer: This type of truck is combination of a truck trailer and a tent. The main advantage of this truck type is the fast loading and unloading that it offers along with a large useful loading volume. However, its weak point is the fact that it is unsuitable for the tranportation of long-distance cargos. The total loading capacity of this truck is 16-25t. With a total capactiy of 22-33 euro-pallets and a useful volume of 60-12- cbm.

4.Refrigerated truck/frigo: This is a semi-trailer and is used for the transpotation of perishable goods. It comes with special storage conditions which are from +250C to -250C. The loading capacity of this truck is 12-22t. with a useful volume of 60-92cbm. It carries a total capactiy of 24-33 euro-pallets and the European standard it carries is up to 20 tons of 82 cbm and 32 euro-pallets.

5.Isotherm: This is a form of a semi-trailer and can aslo be classified as a truck-trailer and separate truck. The intended use of this type of truck is for the transportation of food as it is able to keep a certain temperature for a long amount of time. This truck comes with a loading capacity of 3-25t. and a useful volume of 32-92 cbm. It has a capacity of 6-33 euro-pallets.

6.Flat Bed Truck: This truck type is used for the transportation of goods that stand steady against external influences. Another advantage of this type of truck is that it can be used for the transportation of oversized cargos. The total loading capacity of this truck is 15-25t.

7.Flat Bed and Low Bed Trucks: This truck type is useful in the transportation of oversized cargos and has a total loading capacity of 20-40t.

8.Lorry Tank: Used for the transportation of food and non-food liquid products. It comes with a loading capactiy of 12-20t. and a useful volume of 6-40 cbm.

9.Timber Lorry: The use of this truck type is useful for the transportation of forest and trunk products and comes with a loading capacity of 10-20t.

Truck Consumption

There are eight truck classes classified by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) as identified above. Of these eight classes, the heaviest trucks consume an average of 6.5 gallons per thousand ton-miles. Below is a comparison of the different truck classes, their weights and the fuel consumption. Cars and small pickups, vans, and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are shown here for comparison. Two truck classes are further subdivided into categories “a” and “b”. Based on the GVWR the classes 2a and 2b are subdivided and class 8a and 8b are subdivided based on the design of the truck (straight truck vs. combination truck)



Gross Weight Range (lbs.)

Typical fuel consumed (gallons per thousand ton-miles)


Cars only




Minivans, small SUVs, small pickups




Large SUVs, standard pick-ups




Large pickups, utility van, multi-purpose, mini-bus, step van




Utility van, multi-purpose, mini-bus, step van




City delivery, parcel delivery, large walk-in, landscaping, bucket




City delivery, parcel delivery, large walk-in, landscaping, bucket




City delivery, school bus, large walk-in, bucket




City bus, furniture, refrigerated, dump, fuel tanker, tow, fire engine, tractor-trailer




Straight trucks e.g. dump, refuse, concrete, furniture, city, bus, tow, fire engine




Combination truck e.g. tractor-trailer: van, refrigerated, bulk tanker, flat bed



Location of Truck Assembly Plants

Medium and heavy truck assembly plants are located throughout the United States. Predominantly, there are seven major manufacturers of class 7 and class 8 trucks in the US. There are Freightliner, Star, Hino, International, Kenworth, Mac, Peterbilt and Volvo. Of these manufactures, Freightliner and International also manufacture medium trucks (classes 3-6), along with Isuzu. Below is a table showing the production of medium and heavy trucks by manufacturer name (data is of 2012)

Freightliner and Western Start

















As of 2012, class 3 truck sales are up. The sales of class 3 trucks fell along with the economy in 2008 and 2009 but it soon recovered in 2010 and all throughout 2012. The sales of 2012 rose higher by approximately 19% in 2008 sales. The market dominators in the class 3 truck category are Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

The sales of class 4-7 trucks are still below the level of 2008. Despite the fact that class 4-7 truck sales continued to grow in 2012, the level was still 5% below the level in 2008. As for General Motors, in 2008 they sold 25,000 class 4-7 trucks whereas in 2012 they sold none.

In 2012, class 8 truck sales continued to grow. The sales of class 8 trucks doubled in 2012 to much more than during 2009. As of 2012, Freightliner had 34% of the market and International had 18%. All other companies had less than a 15% share of the market.

Combination Trucks

Based on research conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), it estimated that the average miles travelled per truck for a combination truck in 2011 was more than 66,000 miles. The averages of these trucks have large standard deviations every year because the duty cycles of these trucks greatly vary.

Number of accidents involving trucks on the US roads

Special consideration has been given by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding the regarding the research on accidents between large trucks (weighing over 4,540 kilograms) and other vehicles on the road. The main purpose of this research is to increase awareness regarding the risky behaviors between truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers. Going back almost a decade, as of 1998 large trucks were responsible for 7% of the entire vehicle miles covered and were a cause of approximately 13% of all traffic fatalities. In such accidents, more car passengers died than truck drivers, 78% of the deaths were from the injured car drivers and/or passengers. Based on research conducted in 1998 and after examining the Fatality Analysis reporting System (FARS) it was concluded that a car driver’s driving behavior was three times more likely to cause fatal crashes as compared to those of truck drivers.

Accident Stats

It is estimated that almost 41,000 to 45,000 death related to traffic accidents occur every year in the United States. Of these total deaths, bikers and walkers make up 15% of the total traffic deathsevery year. Commercial vehicle deaths account for less than 9% of these deaths and more than 80% of those crashes are due to the fault of a non-commercial driver.

Of all the car accidents, as of 2012, commercial trucks were involved in 2.4% of all the car accidents. It has been estimated that the rate of truck driver caused crashes is very high with one person killed or injured every 16 minutes. Based on research by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), it is estimated that 500,000 accidents involving trucks occur each year. The major cause of 75% of these truck accidents is due to the fault of the drivers of the passenger vehicles and only 16% of all truck accidents are the fault of the truck driver. The number of people killed every year in truck accidents is almost 5,000 deaths. Approximately 98% of the time the person that is killed is the driver of smaller vehicle or the car or auto as oppose to the larger truck or tractor-trailer.

A disparity exists between accidents occurring in rural areas as compared to urban area. This disparity establishes that approximately 68% of truck accidents occur in rural areas. Of this percentage, 68% happen during the day time whereas 78% occur on the weekends. The states that account for the highest number of truck accidents are California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Last year, trucking revenues came to a total of $610 billion and this amount is estimated to double by 2015. While this is good news for trucking companies and the economy as a whole, it is disadvantageous for cars, SUVs and vans that travel with these trucks as this has raised the potential threat of truck related accidents and deaths. The one cause of truck accidents that is widespread and increasing in the United States is due to the drivers being under the influence of alcohol. In 2004, an astounding number of driving under the influence (DUI) accidents took place. Statistics indicate that some 1,159 accidents occurred in Oregon, which resulted not only in severe injuries and in damages to vehicles but also caused a large amount of deaths. This figure of accidents is 8.01% higher than during 2003. Of this figure, 621 truck accidents were due to the fault of the truck driver. The maximum number of truck accidents went up to 13 accidents per day and the largest number of accidents caused by one trucking company was 26 accidents. 3.02% of the trucks were carrying hazardous materials when the accidents took place.

Large Trucks

Through 1995-1998, the death toll due to large truck accidents increased by 10 percent. The figure rose from 4,918 deaths in 1995 to approximately 5,374 deaths in 1998. Large trucks include a number of categories such as tractor-trailers, certain heavy cargo vans and single-unit trucks that weigh more the 10,000 pounds. These vehicles account for an inexplicably large number of traffic deaths based on the number of miles travelled. For large trucks, a deadly crash rate exists at a statistical level of 2.6 death deaths per 100 million vehicle miles travelled. This statistic is 50 percent more than the rate of all other road vehicle accidents combined.

One major cause of collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles is due to the massive weight difference between cars and large trucks. As noted previously, the weight or overweight nature of tractor-trailers is a huge concern in safety to the FMCSA, DOT and the industry in general. The Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) mentioned previously, studied the problems associated with improper cargo loading. The government studied the BASICs to analyze the severity of eight using an average number of seven (7) on a one (1) to ten (10) scale with one (1) being the lowest and ten (10) being the highest or most dangerous. Loading and weight violations make up approximately forty percent (40%) of all violations cited with improper loading and cargo securement under the BASIC protocol.

A number of agencies in the United States are responsible for reporting and tracking truck-driving statistics. These agencies fall under the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and include National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Regulation of the interstate commercial driving safety and of the interstate commercial driver license requirements are al undertaken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The job of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is to ensure that all trucks obey rules and regulations such as the limitation on the size of the vehicle and weight. This has to be monitored closely in order to protect not only the infrastructure of the highways but also to improve the safety of trucks. Reporting of tractor-trailer accidents and roadside violations of the FMCSR is primarily performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) while the basic job of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is to provide information regarding trucking statistics such as freight tonnage carried across the nation’s highways. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety undertakes the tracking of truck accidents, including fatalities and injury numbers, for the Highway Safety Coalition and the Truck Safety Coalition.

As a parent agency, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reported the following statistics related to trucking accidents in United States:

As of December 2010, more than 1.1 million interstate motor carriers were present. The motor carriers include for-hire, private carriers, business fleets, and owner operators.

According to the last available data of 2007, it was reported by the Commodity Flow Survey that trucks carried and transported goods that were worth more than $8.3 trillion.

The approximate tonnage of freight moved each year is 11 billion.

The number of large truck occupiers that died in 2009 was 529.

The number of truck occupiers injured in 2009 was 20,000.

On an annual basis, 500,000 truck related accidents occur every year.

1.1 serious crashes per 100 million truck miles took place in 2010.

The statistics tend to vary depending on the reporting authority, but it is a widely accepted fact that truck crashes are increasingly common and the number of fatalities are rising as well. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has reported the following statistics as of 2010:

The total number of truck miles travelled was 286,585 million miles.

Number of deaths due to large trucks totaled to 3,413 people.

Of this number of deaths, truck occupants only died 14 percent of the time.

72 percent of the deaths occurred to occupants and passengers in the passenger cars in contrast to the large trucks and tractor-trailers.

People walking (pedestrians), bicyclists and motorcyclists accounted for 13 percent of the deaths.

As compared to 2009, the number of deaths rose by a staggering 8 percent.

The share of large trucks in these accidents was almost 4 percent of the registered vehicles and 9 percent of the total deaths due to motor vehicle crashes.

The amount of deaths caused by tractor-trailers was 75 percent while 25 percent were caused by single large trucks.

As mentioned earlier, trucks weigh almost thirty times more than passenger vehicles. This points towards only one harsh reality. In truck and tractor-trailer related accidents, the passengers most likely to die are those in smaller vehicles. The stopping distance required by trucks is far greater than that required by cars, especially when the trucks are loaded. Hence, we can conclude that drivers of small passenger cars need to be aware of two crucial issues. They need to be aware that heavily loaded trucks and tractor-trailers are dangerous. Second, they need to understand that an overloaded truck or tractor-trailer will require a much greater stopping distance than a properly loaded truck or tractor-trailer.

Based on detailed research from a 2006 study called “The Large-Truck Crash Causation Study: An Initial Overview” published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which analyzed the major causes of truck related accidents, some common variables or factors contributing to crashes, injuries and death can be statistically analyzed. The study analyzed 2,284 vehicles involved in 1,070 crashes. This study analyzed over 1,000 variables. Some of the variables included, vehicle type, weight, cargo type, brakes, air bag status, driving records of drivers, fatigue factors, sleep patterns also known as circadian rhythms, seat belt and other restraint systems and many other variables. One of the key terms was termed a “critical event.” A critical event was defined as the event that immediately led to the crash. The critical event is the action or event that made the crash unavoidable, and only one critical event was defined for each crash.

This study evaluated accident types shown in the following:

A.Right roadside departure;

B.Rear-end collision;

C.Turn across path;

D.Straight paths;

E.Same Trafficway Same Direction – Forward Impact;

F.Same Trafficway Opposite Directions – Forward Impact;

G.Turn into Path;

H.Single Driver – Forward Impact;

I.Same Trafficway Same Direction –Sideswipe/Angle;

J.Miscellaneous types of accidents.

This study found many causation related issues related to truck crashes, some of which are show by the following examples:

A tire bursting is one of the common critical reasons why crashes occur with large trucks. This obviously leads to the conclusion that the motor carrier industry needs to have better systems of maintenance and repair as required under the Pre-trip daily inspections required by the FMCSR. Tires are often not replaced on a timely basis due to the associated cost of tire replacement which ultimately reduces profitability of the motor carrier or truck driver. In other words, driving on worn tires saves money, makes more profit per mile, but has high costs associated with crashes and injury and deaths to car occupants.

Engine problems can be included in the category of disabling or non-disabling vehicle failure. This again relates to poor maintenance and repair in order to increase profits at the cost of human lives.

Intrusion into the lane of the truck with either the truck driver or passenger car operator not maintaining the same lane of travel is a key critical event. This leads to a conclusion that all passenger car drivers need to stay as far away from tractor-trailers as possible. When passing a large truck or tractor-trailer there is a great need to pass quickly due to the possibility of trucks shifting in lanes rapidly and an accident occurs.

A critical event occurs from deteriorating road conditions that may be due to poor weather conditions of lack of maintenance by State, Federal and County highway departments.

Many accidents are caused by inadequate safe road conditions combined with vehicles not traveling a safe and appropriate speed for the road conditions or simply driving too fast over bad roads.

A significant critical event causing crashes and accidents is the sudden shifting of cargo. These accidents can be prevented by following the FMCSR rules on cargo loading and following the CSA study about cargo loading and weight since it is known and foreseeable that poorly loaded cargo will shift and cause accidents.

Lane drifting is a critical event that causes many accidents. The motorist in a passenger car should always observe the large trucks and tractor-trailers for lane shifting to help avoid being driven off the traveled highway or into the path of oncoming cars, vehicles and semis.

Many of the crashes are caused from a driver failing to control the vehicle and leaving the edge of the roadway. Truck drivers can be subject to weather changes like wind where the heavy cargo in the trailer will foreseeably shift and cause the vehicle to leave the traveled highway.

Truck drivers that are not properly qualified and trained on defensive driving techniques and hazard perception and awareness techniques may have difficulty when making turns at intersections or when simply passing through intersections and crashes understandably occur.

Truck drivers that are heavily loaded may not be able to stop for traffic that slows and stops ahead of the truck’s path. When the truck driver operates too fast for the stopping traffic a critical event occurs and a crash becomes a reality.

Intoxicated drivers are a major causative critical event in highway crashes and deaths.

Driver fatigue is a significant critical event that results in injury and deaths to car drivers and passengers.

Objects left on the highway from improperly loaded cargo cause critical events that lead to crashes.

According to a 1994 report by the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) truck driver fatigue is a contributing factor in approximately thirty (30) to forty (40) percent of all large truck accidents. A study in 1995 by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that in 107 heavy truck crashes, fatigue was a critical factor in 75% of on and off road crashes. For those drivers who do not comply with the FMCSR and associated state regulations and stay on the roads for more than the number of hours permitted, they are twice more likely to crash and cause accidents than those driver who drive for a prescribed amount of time. There are many other factors that contribute towards truck related accidents. They include, but are not limited to: truck driver sickness; texting and calling on cellular devices while driving; driving either too fast or too slow for road conditions and traffic conditions and a host of other common negligent errors of truck drivers. Mechanical failures are a major critical event that leads to accidents. Mechanical failures can be prevented by daily pretrip inspections and appropriate maintenance and repair of the trucks, tractors, and trailers. Tire replacement should be mandated as soon as a pretrip inspection indicates a problem with a tire.

It is evident that there are indeed a large number of statistics related to truck related accidents. The numbers indicate an overwhelming need for additional safety and hours-of-service regulations. The bottom line is that trucks are, without doubt, the cause of thousands of accidents each year. Despite the numerous Federal and State agencies doing their best in the promotion of truck safety, the challenge lies in creating increased public awareness about the dangers of truck drivers and motor carriers that operate with a careless system aimed at on-time delivery rather than following the maximum hours-of-services regulations. Truck drivers and other passengers on the roads need to be attentive and considerate towards each other and follow rules closely to avoid highway crashes.

Avoiding truck accidents

Despite laws being in place for the avoidance of truck related accidents, it is vital for the public and all truck drivers and motor carriers to carefully study the dangers associated with a car or motorist being near or close to the proximity of a large truck, semi, or tractor-trailer. Careful training of truck drivers over the FMCSR and appropriate continued training and supervision of the truck drivers will lead to less accidents. The public can become familiar with the dangers and hazards associated with large trucks to learn now to protect themselves and the passengers they carry in their cars and autos. Everyone needs to learn and follow the rules of the road.

Antilock Brakes

Trucking manufacturers and motor carriers need to mandate that all trucks and tractor-trailers are equipped with antilock brakes. This will help the truck driver stop more quickly. The truck driver still needs to driver within a safe and appropriate speed to be able stop the tractor-trailer quickly when loaded heavily. Antilock brakes are especially useful in wet road conditions from rain, snow, sleet and ice. It is advocated that all trucks, semis, tractor-trailers and passenger cars should be built with antilock brakes.

Cab Safety

Truck cabs are often not required to, nor do they meet the safety standards for passenger cars. They should meet the requirement of installing three-point belts or air bags. It is vital to ensure passenger safety by improving the interior features of cabs and integrating cab integrity as well as the inclusion of restraints for the occupants and a three-point safety belt system.

Commercial Driver’s License

Truck drivers in the past, would employ the use of multiple driver’s licenses from various states to avoid license suspension and other penalties. However, this changed with the employment of The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. That law generally required that no person who operates a commercial motor vehicle shall at any time have more than one driver's license, except during the 10-day period beginning on the date such person is issued a driver's license and

except whenever a State law enacted on or before June 1, 1986, requires such person to have more than one driver's license. This act greatly improved safety with motor carriers and truck drivers by implementing a safety related rule that a commercial motor vehicle operator may not have two licenses. This allows government and state agencies to prevent bad truck drivers from operating on our nation’s highways with multiple licenses. This act has helped greatly in increasing uniformity among state licensing programs. With this act, the driving record of a driver can be checked promptly.

Hazardous Materials Transportation

Based on the data supplied by the United States Department of Transportation, every year almost more than four billion tons of dangerous materials are transported on the roads of United States. This makes about 500,000 shipments on a daily basis. As of today, the government is trying to ensure strict standards for the transportation of dangerous materials are in place in order to ensure the utmost level of protection is reached not only for the trucks carrying the goods but also for all drivers and passenger in cars and autos sharing the roads with the large trucks. A substantial portion of the hazardous materials carried by trucks are with shipments of gasoline, fuel oil, diesel, liquid chemicals and highly combustible elements and products. It is recommended that the federal government, especially for the transportation of non-radioactive dangerous materials, should establish and mandate much more rigorous standards.

Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program

The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) introduced in 1982 has been of great help especially in the case of inspection of trucks to determine whether they comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). After the inception of this program, vehicle compliance has increased by a factor of ten. Despite this, the number of drivers and motor carriers that are receiving out-of-service citations for violating the FMCSR has not lessened. The program also has a major drawback. Limited funds and personnel for the FMCSA are only able to inspect a small number of trucks on the roads. In order to gain full advantages of The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), the program has to be solidified both at the state level and at the federal level. Only then can a larger number of vehicles and drivers be inspected.

Great danger is inflicted upon persons using the nation’s highways when trucks are overloaded or improperly loaded with cargo. It would be highly beneficial to include size and weight restrictions and inspections in The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) in order to decrease damage to persons using the Federal and State highway systems.

Truck Tires

Truck tires are a leading cause of accidents. Truck drivers and motor carriers must set up vehicle and tire inspection and repair safety programs and actually implement and follow them in order to have any useful prevention of accidents from worn tires. Rules need to be followed to make certain that tires are replaced, rebuilt and retreaded tires should not be used by large trucks. Trucks need to have the best quality tires. It is recommended that regulations should be set in place that determine the highest quality truck tires are embedded with the right details such as carcass design and tread depth. If these rules are created, implemented and followed, accidents will be prevented. Stopping distance of the large trucks will be improved. The motor carrier will benefit by increased fuel efficiency and profits.

Truck Conspicuity and Lighting Display

The regulations regarding truck lighting requirements have not been updated in a long time. These requirements come from the FMCSR. Many accidents occur in hazy and dark conditions because motorist are unable to properly see large trucks and tractor-trailers because of poor visibility. Many truck drivers operate on highways with inadequate lighting conditions. Those drivers who are a victim of lower contrast sensitivity and suffer from inferior night vision are not able to identify trucks and visualize trucks with low level conspicuity and lighting. The FMCSR conspicuity requirements can be found at 49 CFR 393.9 et. seq. and beyond provide regulations for lamps, reflective devices and electrical wiring.

Section 393.11 has a table that provides guidance to truck drivers and motor carrier on how to properly use lighting, lamps, and conspicuity tape. The problem with the rules is that if the truck driver is not properly trained on them and the motor carrier does not understand them, the result will be more injury and deaths to human beings operating or riding in passenger cars. These Federal regulations should be strengthened to require motor carriers to spend the necessary monies it takes to provide appropriate warning to motorists in nighttime and poor visibility conditions. This will lead to the lessening of crashes and in turn, reduced deaths and injuries to motorists in cars.

Tips for Sharing Roads with Trucks

  • 1-Truck-wise: It is essential for vehicles sharing trucks with roads to be able to identify the types of trucks in order to expect what will be present on roads.
  • i.Oversize trucks: The trucks are not like the average trucks you see. They are longer, wider and are larger than average trucks. These trucks come with orange lights that flash and the lights are usually present in the front and the back in order to allow vehicles to see and visualize the hazard of these oversize monster trucks.
  • ii.Long vehicles: These vehicles have the ability to tow a number of different types of trailers that can actually be the length of two semis. These longer tractor-traires are especially dangerous due to the increased stopping distance of the tandem trailers. These tractor-trailers make wider turns than normal tractor-trailers. They carry more cargo. Because of increased weight and mass, they especially hazardous to cars and passengers in cars.
  • 2-Do not cut in: It is critical that the public motorist in cars avoid the large trucks and blind spots associated with the large nature of the tractors and trailers. Keep an appropriate distance in front of and behind these dangerous trucks.
  • 3-Do not overtake a turning vehicle: All types of trucks require a larger space for turning, especially larger trucks; and in many areas, trucks can legally turn from the center lane. Never move into the blind spot of a truck especially when it is turning. Always remember that if you cannot see the driver’s face in the mirrors then they cannot see you either.
  • 4-Maintain your speed: One should be extremely cautious when driving next to trucks especially when a truck is overtaking. Avoid staying immediately opposite to a large truck or tractor-trailer in the adjacent lane. As previously noted, wind and weather conditions can cause them to have sudden lane shifts. Poorly trained and qualified drivers are not good at maintaining a single lane of travel. They are dangerous instruments that cause death so keep your distance from them at an appropriate safe level at all times.
  • 5-Roundabouts: Operators of passenger cars needs to be careful of the recent increased development of roundabouts. The larger trucks will shift lanes while going through these types of intersections. Again, keep your distance at a safe level. Large trucks need large space to make turns and require a larger turning radius or area. You should stay as far away from the trucks in these types of roadways in order to protect yourself and your family and other passengers.


49 C.F.R. 383.1

Morris v. JTM Materials, Inc., (Tex. Ct. App. 2002, 78 S.W.3d 28, at pp. 37-38).

Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company v. American Red Ball Transit Company, Inc., 262 Kan. 570, 938 P.1281 (Kan. 1997).

49 C.F.R. § 383.1. Myers v. Hose," 1994 WL 803496, p. 14 (D. Maryland 1994)

Kapche v. City of San Antonio, 176 F.3d 840, 846 (5th Cir. 1999). (footnotes omitted)

© Bradley A. Pistotnik, 2014