In October of 2021, 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 2019. In part 1, we looked at some of the foundational facts for 2019. 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 22%; and property damage-only crashes accounted for the balance, around 77%. 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.
• In 2019, a total of 4,479 fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred. This is up about 0.5% from the 4,461 crashes in 2018 and up 50.2% from the 2009 count. By the clock, this is one fatal crash involving a heavy truck every two hours.
• How many people were killed in these crashes? Over 5,000 in 2019. 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 82% of those killed were in the other vehicle, while 17% were in the truck.
• Based on miles, there were 1.49 fatal crashes involving large trucks per 100 million miles traveled. This is up 2% from 2018 (1.45) and up about 45% from 2009 (1.03). Fatalities in large truck crashes per 100 million miles traveled reflected the same general trends with the numbers creeping upwards to 1.67, an increase of 3.6% from the 1.61 ratio in 2018, and an increase of 50.3% from 2009’s number of 1.03.
• As to the type of fatality crash, the most harmful event for the large truck was typically a collision with another vehicle. The data notes that in about three of four fatal crashes involving large trucks, a collision with another moving vehicle occurred. Of the remaining crash types, over 95% involved a collision with something – from fixed object and parked cars to trains and animals. The remaining balance were harmful events such as rollovers (3.7%), jackknifes (0.27%) and cargo shifts (0.22) which often result in a rollover or loss of control. (Remember, this is the “first” harmful event, not all the harmful events that might be involved in a crash!)
• Large trucks were involved in more injury crashes in 2019 than they were in 2018, and over twice as many as in 2009. In 2019, a total of 114,000 injury crashes involving a large truck occurred, up 6.5% and 123.5% over 2018 and 2009, respectively. In 2019, 158,000 persons were hurt in these crashes – over 80,000 more than in 2009.
• On a per 100-million-mile basis, as with fatalities, the injury rate increased from 35.0 crashes in 2018 to 38.0 in 2019. While miles traveled were down about 1.6% from 2018 to 2019, injuries were up 8.5%. Regrettably, over the five-year period from 2014 to 2019, we’ve been seeing the amount of injury crashes continuing to creep up rather than down.
• In terms of injury crashes, much like fatalities, collision with another vehicle was the first harmful event in eight out of 10 injury crashes involving large trucks. Other collisions, especially with fixed objects, round out injury crash events.
Property Damage-Only (PDO) Crashes
• While no crash is a good 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 – 88 times more PDO crashes occur than those with a fatality. In 2019 there were 392,000 PDO crashes, up 1% from 2018, and a 69% increase from 2009. These crashes can range from a parking lot bump or fender bender to a major wreck – with no injuries or fatalities. Per 100 million miles, PDO crashes involving large trucks were up 3% from 2018 and almost 62% from 2009.
• As before, collisions with other moving vehicles account for 77.1% of the PDO crashes involving large trucks. Rounding things out, collisions with a fixed object account for another 11.2%, while collisions with parked motor vehicles account for 5.8%.
• Interestingly, when we look at just single-vehicle crashes (just the truck, no other vehicle involved), a collision with a fixed object covers just under half the crashes. Collisions with parked motor vehicles covers another 26%, and rollovers and jackknifes add up to about 9% of the total.
• Regarding Bambi and his furry friends, collisions with an animal were the first harmful event in 7,000 crashes – accounting for 7.8% of the single-vehicle property damage-only crashes. Overall, animal hits accounted for only about 1.7% of the total.
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.
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