Trucking Crash Prevention: Identifying Risk Factors in Large Truck Crashes

In November 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released an early version of its Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2015. The report shows 4,050 fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2015—an eight percent increase over 2014. On top of that, there were 87,000 injury crashes involving large trucks in 2015 and 342,000 property-damage-only crashes.

That’s a lot of damage. What’s causing it all? The FMCSA report shines some light on the risk factors.

Factors in Large Truck Crashes

The FMCSA report identifies a number of factors that have been identified in large truck crashes, including:

  • Driver-related factors. Driver-related factors are less common in large truck drivers involved in fatal accidents than in passenger-vehicle drivers involved in fatal accidents. In 2015, driver behaviors were a factor for 33 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes; for passenger vehicle drivers, the figure is 57 percent. Of driver factors, “speeding of any kind” was the most frequent driver-related factor for large truck drivers, and “distraction/inattention” was the second most common.
  • Collisions and overturns. Collision with another moving vehicle was a factor in 74 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks, 84 percent of injury crashes involving large trucks and 78 percent of property-damage-only crashes involving large trucks. Four percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks and 2 percent of all nonfatal large truck crashes occurred as a result of rollovers.
  • Speed limits. Sixty-four percent of fatal crashes took place in areas where the speed limit was 50 mph or higher.

Some factors that employers might think would affect crash risk have less of an effect than they might expect, including:

  • Vehicle-related factors. Vehicle-related factors contributed to 6 percent of fatal large truck crashes and in 3 percent of the passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes with large trucks. The most commonly reported vehicle-related factor was tires.
  • Time of day. Thirty-five percent of all fatal crashes, 21 percent of all injury crashes, and 19 percent of all property damage-only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am).
  • Interstate highways. Approximately 60 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads; only 25 percent occurred on rural or urban interstate highways.
  • Work zones. In 2015, 27 percent of work zone fatal crashes and 11 percent of work zone injury crashes involved at least one large truck.
  • Weather and roadway conditions. Most fatal crashes (69%) occurred in clear weather. Another 17% occurred in cloudy weather. Eighty-three percent occurred on dry roads.

Notice that the majority of fatal crashes take place during the day, in clear weather, and on dry roads. This may have more to do with the number of vehicles on the road during those times than with other factors, but don’t let drivers believe that they’re only at risk in bad weather or darkness.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some strategies for preventing or controlling hazards that lead to truck crashes caused by rear-end collisions and driver distraction.


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