In September, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released their latest “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” document covering large truck (Class 3-8) and bus crash details for calendar year 2018. In Part 1, we looked at some of the foundational facts for 2018. Now, Let’s delve a little deeper into some of the details.

FMCSA typically provides details for large truck crashes across a severity range of fatalities, injuries, and property damage only. As total crashes break down, fatality crashes accounted for about 1%; injury crashes represented 21%; and property damage-only crashes accounted for the balance -- around 78%. Most all these crashes – fatality, injury, and property damage – involve collisions with other vehicles (moving and stopped), and happen on main roads or freeways, on clear days, and at vehicle speeds of about 56 mph.

The report breaks down crashes in some detail – focusing on event severity, among other items. Severity, as defined in the report, typically references three categories – fatalities, injuries, and property damage-only (or PDO) crashes.

Fatal Crashes

  • In 2018, 4,415 fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred. This is up 1.1% from the 4,366 crashes in 2017 and up 17.6% from the 2008 count. On the clock, this is one fatal crash involving a heavy truck every 2 hours.
  • How many folks were killed in these crashes? Almost 5,000 in 2018. When touching on fatalities, it’s important to remember those killed are often in the other, likely smaller vehicle, as opposed to the large truck. In multiple-vehicle crashes, about 81% of those killed were in the other vehicle, while 18% were in the truck. However, it’s also worth noting that the critical pre-crash event precipitating the crash was typically caused by something other than the truck – the other vehicle, pedestrians, animals, etc. in 64% of the fatal crashes. While smaller vehicles suffer more in the crash situation, smaller vehicles often tend to be the cause.
  • Based on miles, there were 1.45 fatal crashes involving large trucks per 100 million miles traveled. This is down 1.4% from 2017 (1.47) and up about 20% from 2008 (1.21). Fatalities in heavy truck crashes per 100 million miles traveled reflected the same general trends with the numbers down to 1.62, a decrease of 1.8% from the 1.65 ratio in 2017, and an increase of 18.2% from 2008’s number of 1.37.
  • As to the type of fatality crash, the most harmful event for the large truck was typically a collision with another vehicle. In 3 of 4 fatal crashes involving large trucks, collision with another moving vehicle occurred. Of the remaining crash types, all but 7.8% were some type of collision with something – from fixed object a and parked cars to trains and animals. The 7.8% balance were harmful events such as rollovers (5.9%) and jackknifes (1.8%).

Injury Crashes

  • Large trucks were involved in more injury crashes in 2018 than they were in 2017, and many more than 2008. In 2018, 107,000 injury crashes involving large truck occurred, up 4.9% and 67.2% over 2017 and 2008, respectively. In 2018, over 151,000 persons were hurt in these crashes – over 60,000 more than in 2008.
  • On a per 100 million-mile basis, unlike fatalities, the injury rate increased from 34.4 crashes in 2017 to 35.0 in 2018. Interestingly, less folks were injured in large truck crashes in 2018 than in 2008 – down about 1%. While that’s great to see, keep in mind that over the last 5 years (2013-2018) we’ve been seeing the amount of injury crashes continuing to creep up rather than down.
  • In terms of injuries crashes, much like fatalities, collision with another vehicle was the first harmful event in eight out of ten injury crashes involving large trucks. Other collisions, especially with fixed objects, round out injury crash events.

Property Damage-Only (PDO) Crashes

  • If you have to have a crash, the best possibility is the one you walk away from in one piece, even though you might have to replace your vehicle! Property damage-only crashes are historically the largest number of crashes involving heavy trucks – 88x more PDO crashes occur than fatality crashes. In 2018 there were 388,000 PDO crashes, up 12.8% from 2017, and a 30.6% increase from 2008. These crashes can range from a parking lot bump and fender bender, to a major wreck – with no injuries or fatalities.
  • Per 100 million miles, PDO crashes involving large trucks were up 10% from 2018 and almost 33% from 2008.
  • As before, collisions with other moving vehicles account for 75% of the PDO crashes involving large trucks. Rounding things out, collisions with a fixed object account for another 12.5%, while collisions with parked motor vehicles account for 5.4%.
  • Interestingly, when we look at just single-vehicle crashes (just the truck, no other vehicle involved), a collision with a fixed object covers just over half the crashes. Collisions with parked motor vehicles covers another 24%, and rollovers and jackknifes add up to about 11% of the total.
  • Regarding Bambi and his furry friends, collisions with an animal were the first harmful event in 7,000 crashes – accounting for 7.7% of the single-vehicle property damage-only crashes. Overall, animal hits accounted for only about 1.4% of the total crashes.

There you have it – bumps, bruises, and worse involving large trucks. In a nutshell, the trends continue to be increasing across all types of crashes year over year. Not a good thing. But, as with any trend, it can be changed. The driver is always in control of the vehicle, but ever-increasing safety technology penetration levels offer help to turn the tide. Safety systems – like stability and collision mitigation – are designed to complement safe drivers practicing safe driving habits as well as comprehensive driver training. We’ll discuss some of these in Part 4. Next, let’s look at some specialty crash situations. Part 3 coming soon. And for more on part 2, you can listen to my discussion on the Truck Talk with Bendix podcast here.

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