In late October of 2021 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 2019. FMCSA typically publishes this document reflecting the immediate prior two years, as 2018 was released last year (2020).

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 76% of them – 134,456 – 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 2019, so it’s likely that this heavier weight Class, more so than the other classes, were involved in many of the crashes involving heavy trucks.

The Numbers Tell the Tale

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 of the 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 currently standard (collision mitigation), as well as on track for regulation 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).

While growing from 2013 through 2018, registrations of large trucks dropped a bit in 2019, down 148,000 units (or a drop of 1%). However, over the last ten years, registrations overall have grown. In 2009, Almost 11 million large trucks were registered. By 2019 this number had grown to 13.1 million, an increase of 19%. Interestingly, back in 2008, trucks traveled over 310 billion miles. Not surprisingly, these numbers dropped as the after-effects of the Great Recession (which ended in 2009) lingered. In 2009 trucks traveled over 288 billion miles, down 7% from 2008. The low point in our 10-year look came in 2013, when truck miles traveled reached 275 billion – a drop of 11% from 2008. And though miles traveled had been making a coming back since 2015, they dropped about 2% between 2018 and 2019 from 304 billion miles in 2018 to about 300 billion miles in 2019.

While more miles can mean more crashes, regrettably the opposite was true in 2019. Miles were down about 2% between 2018 and 2019, but total crashes involving large trucks – fatalities, injury and property damage only crashes – crept up by 2%, a substantial increase of 78% from 2009.

By the numbers, in 2019, there were over a half million crashes (510,479) involving large trucks. This compares to 285,983 in 2009, and 499,461 in 2018. Time for a reality check: crashes involving a large truck happened almost every minute of every hour of every day in 2019 – 58 crashes per hour. If trends continue, a large truck crash in the U.S. could, on average, occur every minute of every day. That’s a trend I’d rather avoid!

What types of crashes were these? We’ll explore that question in part 2.

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