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Semi-Truck Accident Statistics

Semi-trucks go by many names, including tractor-trailers or “big rigs.” They are hard to miss out on the freeway, hauling goods long distances and often going at very high speeds. Many truckers are on the road for weeks with no contact with friends or family, and they can sometimes be careless behind the wheel. It is no mystery why getting into a collision with them would be a disaster for most motorists.

Size Differential

Semi-trucks are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles:

  • The average compact car weighs about 3,000 pounds.
  • The average full-size SUV weighs about 6,000 pounds.
  • A semi-truck can reach a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds when the trailer is full.

Unsurprisingly, the passenger vehicle and its occupants end up with more serious injuries in a collision with a semi-truck. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,014 people were killed in truck crashes in 2020. Of those, 15% were riding in the truck but 68% were occupants in a passenger sedan. The rest were pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.

Semi-Truck Accidents Are Increasing

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate trucking. They also compile statistics for truck accidents. Their most recent report looked at accidents in 2019 and found:

  • The number of large trucks involved in fatal collisions increased 2% from 2018 to 2019, from 4,909 to 5,005.
  • The number of large trucks involved in a crash causing injury jumped 6% from 2018 to 2019, from 112,000 to 119,000.
  • The number of large trucks involved in a property-damage-only crash stayed the same for 2019, at roughly 414,000.

We suspect these numbers went down briefly for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Fewer vehicles were on the road, which reduces the likelihood of a crash. But they will probably continue to increase as the country returns to normal.

Most Fatal Semi Accidents Happen on Major Roads

The IIHS looked at where fatal large truck accidents took place and found that freeways and the interstate accounted for 36% of fatal accidents, major roads accounted for 47%, and minor roads made up 15%.

One reason could be that head-on collisions are less likely on freeways where traffic is all headed in the same direction.

Accidents Involving Older Drivers Increase

There is a shortage of qualified truckers. To cope, many trucking companies are enticing older drivers out of retirement. It is not unusual to see truck drivers in their 70s and even 80s out hauling. However, there is evidence they are a greater risk of accidents. In 2016, CBS News analyzed accident data for 12 states and found the number of accidents for drivers 70+ increased 19% from 2013 to 2015.

Brake Problems Are a Major Cause of Accidents

The FMCSA has identified the most common risk factors associated with large truck accidents:

  • Brake problems (29%)
  • Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions (23%)
  • Driver’s lack of familiarity with the roadway (22%)
  • Road problems (20%)
  • Over-the-counter drug use (17%)

Of course, multiple risk factors are present in any given crash. Sometimes, multiple things go wrong which leads to tragedy.

Were You Hurt in a Semi-Truck Accident?

These accidents leave victims with serious injuries. Rather than negotiate a settlement yourself, please reach out to Quinn Law Group today. We offer a free consultation.