In September of 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released their latest “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” publication covering large truck (Class 3-8) and bus crash details for the year of 2018. FMCSA typically publishes this document reflecting the immediate prior two years, as 2017 was released last year.

The COVID-19 impact slightly delayed release of this year’s report – September versus the customary May. I’m a better late than never kind of person, so even with the delay, it’s great to get the chance to dive into the details on this one. Taking a look at the 118-page document, I’ve pulled out a few statistics that you might find interesting. By the way, I’m keeping the focus on the large truck side of the data. While “large truck” encompasses a wide range of trucks – from delivery vans to tractor-trailers, it’s important to note that the majority of trucks involved in fatal, injury and tow-away crashes are Class 7 and 8 vehicles. Of the over 176,000 large trucks involved in crashes, about 77% of them – 135,157 – had a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) over 26,000 lbs. Class 8 trucks (>33,000lbs) were involved in 68% of the fatality crashes that happened in 2018, so it’s likely that this heavier weight Class, more so than Class 7, were involved in many of the crashes involving heavy trucks.

What type of trucks are we talking about? Almost 55% of the heavy trucks involved in crashes were tractors – either bobtail, or with a single, double, or triple trailer. Another 33% were single unit trucks with two, three, or more axles. In a nutshell, Class 8 tractor-trailers are likely involved in a sizeable percentage heavy truck crashes that happen out on the road. That’s why we see technologies such as stability control, collision mitigation, and others being mandated (stability) or made standard (collision mitigation) on many of today’s OEM tractor models. (And, why we’re also seeing the expanding availability of these safety technologies on single-unit trucks).

Large truck registrations also continue to grow. In 2008, 10.9 million large trucks were registered. By 2018 this has grown to 13.2 million … an increase of 21%. Interestingly, in 2008, trucks traveled over 310 billion miles. Not surprisingly, these numbers dropped during the Great Recession (as did registrations) and have been coming back since about 2015, reaching 304 billion miles in 2018.

More trucks travelling more miles can mean more potential for crashes. And, I’m afraid, the facts confirm that this is the case. Here’s why I say that: Total crashes – fatalities, injury, and property damage only crashes – saw double digit increases – an uptick of 11% YoY (Year over Year) 2017 to 2018, and a substantial increase of 37% from 2008.

By the numbers, in 2018, there were almost a half million crashes (499,415) involving large trucks. This compares to 364,754 in 2008, and 450,366 in 2017. Time for a reality check: crashes involving a large truck happened almost every minute of every hour of every day in 2018 – 57 crashes per hour. At this rate, how many crashes occurred somewhere in the U.S. during the time it took you to read this blog? Did any of them involve your trucks?

What types of crashes were these? We’ll explore that question in part 2. And for more on part 1, you can listen to my discussion with Denise Rondini on the Truck Talk with Bendix podcast here.

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