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Large Truck Crashes: A Snapshot of the Problem

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) classifies a “large truck” as any truck weighing over 10,000 pounds. This classification means that “large truck” is a category that includes everything from box trucks making neighborhood deliveries to 80,000-pound fully-loaded eighteen-wheel tractor-trailers.

The one thing all large trucks have in common: They’re considerably heavier than passenger vehicles. The average passenger car, minivan, or SUV weighs about 3,500 pounds. Some vehicles, like compact cars, weigh even less. Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are even more vulnerable in a truck accident.

Consequently, when a truck collides with another person or vehicle, most of the damage typically occurs to the non-truck parties in the crash. But how common are large truck accidents?

Here’s a snapshot of the data collected by the FMCSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in recent years concerning large truck and commercial bus accidents.

The number of truck accidents is lower than it has been historically, but still high.

The IIHS began gathering data on fatal truck crashes in 1975. Since then, the record-low year for truck accident deaths was 2009.

While 2016 truck accident deaths were 27 percent higher than in 2009, according to the IIHS, they’re still lower than every year from 1975 to 2008. However, a larger percentage of truck drivers have lost their lives in these accidents in recent years, suggesting that while passenger vehicles and safer driving are protecting those outside the truck, more can be done to protect those inside.

Tractor-trailers are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than other types of large trucks.

In 2016, large truck accidents that claimed at least one life involved a tractor-trailer 73 percent of the time. Single-unit or “box” trucks were involved in 21 percent of deadly accidents. These numbers are similar to numbers posted in other recent years.

These numbers are perhaps unsurprising, given that single-unit trucks are typically smaller and weigh less than tractor-trailers. Single-unit trucks also sit slightly lower, reducing the risk of underride accidents, and their build prevents them from “jackknifing” during an accident.

The more trucks involved in a crash, the higher the risk of death.

Pile-up accidents often result in multiple serious injuries or deaths.  When a pile-up involves multiple large trucks, the drivers and passengers in those trucks become just as vulnerable to serious injury or death as passenger vehicle occupants.  In 2016, 67 percent of large truck drivers and passengers killed in truck crashes lost their lives in a crash involving more than one large truck.

Passenger vehicle drivers are at risk from large truck crashes, but they’re at more risk from passenger vehicle accidents.

In 2016, large truck accidents accounted for 11 percent of passenger vehicle deaths and 21 percent of passenger vehicle deaths in multi-vehicle crashes. However, the remainder of those fatalities occurred in accidents that did not involve a large truck, suggesting that passenger vehicle drivers need to balance large truck risks with other risks on the road.

If you’ve been injured in a large truck or bus accident, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. At the Folger Law Firm we are dedicated to helping our clients seek the compensation they deserve. We work on a contingency basis, so you won’t pay fees unless we recover for you. Contact us today to learn more.


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