How Many People Are Killed in Trucking Accidents?

When a truck and a car collide, the vehicle occupants are the more likely of the two to be injured or killed. Semi-trucks and tractor trailers are 20-30 times heavier than a passenger vehicle. When a vehicle that size collides with a passenger car, the results are almost always catastrophic. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts annual studies to analyze how many people are killed in trucking accidents, and found that 3,086 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Seventeen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, while 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

Tractor Trailers Are 20 to 30 Times Heavier Than Passenger Vehicles and Take Longer to Stop

According to the IIHS, a trucking accident occurs when a large trailer (greater than 10,000 lbs) collides with another vehicle or a pedestrian. Approximately 500,000 trucking accidents occur every year in the United States. In fact, one of every 8 traffic deaths annually involves a trucking collision.

The average passenger car weighs approximately 2.5 tons, while a tractor-trailer can weigh up to 30 tons. This means that a loaded tractor-trailer will take 20–40% more distance than a car to come to a complete stop. To illustrate, if a car and a truck are both driving at 40 mph and begin braking at the same time, the truck will travel approximately 45 feet farther than the car before coming to a complete stop. This discrepancy increases on wet or slippery roads, or with poorly maintained brakes.

To put it another way, a passenger car needs about 300 feet to stop after braking, while a tractor trailer needs 525 feet. Of course, speed is a factor when coming to a stop. The faster a vehicle is travelling, the longer it takes to stop.

In addition to the significant size difference, trucks are taller than passenger vehicles. During a crash between a semi-truck and a passenger car, the smaller vehicle will often under-ride the larger truck when the two vehicles collide.

Driver Fatigue Is a Common Cause of Trucking Collisions

Driver fatigue is also a common cause of truck crashes. Federal hours-or-service regulations allow commercial truck drivers to drive for up to 11 hours at a time. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate these regulations and work longer than permitted, often due to corporate pressures to deliver on time.

Other Causes of Trucking Collisions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a Large Truck Crash Causation Study to investigate the causes of serious crashes involving large trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 lbs. The study analyzed 120,000 large truck crashes that occurred between April 2001 and December 2003. The study revealed the following common causes of truck crashes:

  • Twenty-seven percent of trucks were found to have brake problems
  • Nineteen percent of drivers were unfamiliar with the route
  • 10 percent of truck drivers felt under pressure
  • Seven percent were overly tired
  • Three percent experienced tire problems
  • Five percent were driving in an aggressive manner
  • One percent were ill
  • 0.4 percent were under the influence of illegal substances
  • 0.3 percent had been consuming alcohol

Of course, truck operators are also sometimes injured when a tractor-trailer collides with another vehicle. According to the FMCSA’s 2014 report:

  • Of the 3,697 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2014, 202 (5 percent) were 25 years of age or younger, and 216 (6 percent) were 66 years of age or older.
  • About 2 percent of all the drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2014 were female.
  • Of the 3,697 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2014, 335 (9 percent) were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash; of those, 30 percent were completely or partially ejected from the vehicle.
  • In 2014, at least one driver-related factor was recorded for 34 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes. Speeding was the most frequent driver-related factor, while distraction and driver inattention” was the second most common factor for large truck drivers.

Were You Hurt in a Trucking Collision? Contact the Robenalt Law Firm for Help

If you were hurt or someone you loved was killed in a trucking collision, your right to evidence is limited in time because trucking companies do not have to retain records beyond the 6 month period. We can help by takingimmediate action to obtain a download of the electronic data from the truck involved, send letters to secure the documents mandated by the federal regulations and identify the parties at fault for the crash. You and your family might be entitled to compensation. Contact a skilled and experienced truck accident attorney at the Robenalt Law Firm today for a free initial consultation to discuss whether you have a case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured to secure compensation for trucking accidents.