United States Commercial Trucking Accident Statistics

A car with a smashed windshield and a commercial truck in the background.

The United States economy depends on trucking to move its freight around. In fact, about 70% of everything you buy has reached the store where you bought it in a commercial truck. Trucking as an industry is not only foundational to American capitalism; it also provides thousands of well-paying jobs to American men and women every year.

However, 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks can pose a danger to everyone else on our highways and byways. Because of a truck’s much greater size and weight—tractor trailers can weigh up to 30 times more than passenger vehicles—it takes them longer to stop and maneuver, which can lead to accidents. And when a truck and a passenger vehicle collide, it’s usually not the truck driver who suffers the most injuries.

In 2020, 84% of all the people who died in a truck accident were occupants of the smaller vehicle or pedestrians, a clear indication of the dangers of big rigs. Further truck accident statistics paint a fairly grim picture of the industry.

Truck Accidents Appear to Be On the Rise

From 2011 to 2020, the number of American trucks involved in a fatal crash increased 33% to 4,842. While the trend has decreased a little since 2019, it’s still much higher than historical levels. The post-pandemic increase in cross-country travel, coupled with the high demand for shipped goods that is likely to continue, could lead to a further increase in fatal truck crashes in the short- to medium-term.

What Causes Big Truck Wrecks?

While every truck wreck is different, with different causes and results, there are some common factors that, when present, contribute a higher risk of accident:

A closeup of commercial truck tires shining in the sun
  • Tire defects cause 30% of all truck accidents, according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Tractor trailers have eighteen tires, or fourteen more opportunities for a blow-out, than most passenger cars. The number of wheels also greatly increases the maintenance burden on truck owners and operators. All of these factors combine to a major risk on the highway.
  • Studies show that aggressive driving is responsible for another 5% of truck accidents. Because trucks take longer to speed up, slow down, and maneuver, they can aggravate some drivers, leading to aggressive and dangerous driving and possibly a wreck.
  • Another main cause of truck accidents every year is sleep deprivation. Truckers work under tight deadlines requiring long hours behind the wheel, and while there are strict regulations on driving and resting time, fatigue is still a major factor in about 100,000 truck accidents a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Even though big rigs are extremely dangerous in a collision with a passenger car, the fact is that cars are responsible for 80% of truck accidents. Often, car drivers overestimate the truck driver’s abilities to maneuver around their actions, resulting in a collision.

Truck Accidents: Common Times and Locales

Researchers with the National Safety Council studied 2020 truck accidents and discovered the following statistics:

  • Truck accidents were roughly split between rural and urban settings, with slightly more (54.46%) happening on rural roads.
  • Roughly 3/4 (73.29%) of trucking accidents happen on non-interstate roads, such as surface streets, state and federal highways, and others. This makes some intuitive sense, since non-interstate thoroughfares often have much more complex traffic patterns, including ingress, egress, lane shifting, stops, and more.
  • Surprisingly, more truck accidents happen during the day (63.45%) than at night (36.55%). This could be because, even though drivers have less visibility at night, there are fewer of them or they’re more careful, but of course confirming that would take further study.
  • The vast majority (95.41%) of all trucking accidents happen outside of active work zones.

What Should I Do If I’m in a Truck Accident?

We at Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys have developed some tips for what you should do after being involved in an 18 wheeler crash. Immediately pull over to a safe location and call 911, if you can. The first responders on the scene will be able to address your injuries and your passengers’, and the police report can serve as an official record of what happened.

Gordon McKernan, The Lawyer on the Truck

After the accident, you should report it to your insurance, but don’t accept their initial offer. Because insurance companies are for-profit businesses, they will attempt to resolve your case as quickly and as cheaply as possible. However, their first offer will likely be nowhere near enough to pay for all of your damages and injuries.

Instead, reach out to Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys for a free legal consultation. A dedicated truck accident lawyer will listen to your situation and advise on what compensation you could expect. We’ll help you file paperwork and motions, find evidence, talk to witnesses, and even take your case to court. We won’t charge you a dime until we win or settle your case. Call us today.