FMCSA’s latest truck-involved crash data reveals insignificance of fatigue and side impacts

May 18, 2018 | Uncategorized

By Tyson Fisher, Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently published its Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts for 2016, highlighting some key factors behind truck-involved crashes.

The report, which pulls crash data from reports compiled by a variety of federal transportation, highway and safety agencies, shows that crashes for both passenger and commercial vehicles were on the rise in 2016. The report does not include data that would indicate cause or fault, however. When it comes to truck-involved fatal crashes, the report found that fatigue-related factors, as well as side impacts comprised less than 4 percent and 16 percent respectively, of all such crashes.

Crash details
Of the various pre-crash events, the most prevalent in fatal truck-involved crashes was another vehicle encroaching into the truck’s lane at 38 percent. Another 26 percent of pre-crash events involved another vehicle in the same lane that did something to make a crash imminent. Less than a quarter was the result of the truck’s loss of control or movement.

Only 5 percent of the fatal truck-involved crashes included vehicle-related factors such as tires, brake system, steering, etc. This is in line with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s claim that the overwhelming majority of fatal crashes are caused by human error. Tires were the most common vehicle-related factor among trucks, accounting for 1 percent of fatal truck-involved crashes.

So what are the most common human-error factors? Speeding and distraction at 7 percent and 6 percent of fatal truck-involved crashes, respectively.

But what about fatigue? Less than 4 percent of truck-involved fatal crashes fell under “impairment,” a catch-all category that includes fatigue, alcohol, illness, and other physical or mental impairments. Of the 4,152 crashes total under the impairment category, sleep or fatigue were cited as a factor in just 70 crashes, roughly 1.7 percent of all fatal truck involved crashes in 2016. Among passenger vehicle drivers, impairment accounted for 16 percent of fatal crashes. The report does not specify the number of sleep or fatigue-related impairments to passenger vehicle drivers.

A little more than one-quarter of fatal truck-involved crashes were on rural and urban interstates. Approximately one-third happened on “other principal arterial” roads. More than 60 percent of fatal truck-involved crashes occurred in rural areas.

The most common time frame for fatal truck-involved crashes was between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., accounting for one-third of crashes. Nearly two thirds of truck-involved fatal crashes occurred during the daytime hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Inclement weather was rarely a contributing factor, according to the report. More than 70 percent of fatal crashes involving trucks took place on a clear day and another 15 percent on a cloudy day. Rain accounted for more fatal crashes than snow at 6 percent compared to 1.5 percent, respectively. However, 85 percent of crashes were on dry pavement, 10 percent on wet pavement and only 2 percent on pavement covered with snow or ice.

Adjusted per 1 million people, Wyoming had the most fatal truck-involved crashes with 32.45. On the other side of the spectrum, Rhode Island had the fewest at 1.89 fatal crashes, not counting District of Columbia’s zero fatal crashes.

The initial point of impact for more than half of fatal truck-involved crashes occurred at the front of trucks. Less than 20 percent struck the rear, and only 16 percent occurred on the left or right side. In related news, some lawmakers want to mandate underride guards on all trucks.

Data was compiled by sourcing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, General Estimates System, Crash Report Sampling System, FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System Crash File and the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Statistics. Data does not include crash causation or fault.

Truck stats vs. passenger vehicle stats
Two years ago, there was a 3.4 percent increase in the number of trucks involved in fatal crashes, and a 6.7 percent increase in the number of fatal crashes. The number of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes jumped 6 percent, and the number of passenger vehicle fatal crashes increased by 5 percent.

When it comes to injury crashes, trucks and passenger vehicles kept up at nearly the same pace with an approximately 25 percent increase in the number of vehicles involved and the number of injury crashes.

Vehicle-miles traveled stats varied in some areas. For both trucks and passenger vehicles, vehicle miles traveled increased by nearly 3 percent. Passenger vehicles clocked an all-time high of 2.8 trillion miles. Trucks traveled approximately 288 billion miles in 2016.

Injury crashes and the number of vehicles involved per 100 million vehicle miles traveled were virtually the same between trucks and passenger vehicles, with an increase of just over 20 percent in both categories. Although the number of fatal crashes involving trucks per 100 million VMT were near the same below 5 percent, the number of passenger vehicles involved increased by 4 percent to 1.44, whereas the number of trucks remained stagnant at 1.46.

Drunk driving is a major concern for passenger vehicles, but not so much for truckers. Of all fatal truck-involved crashes, only 3 percent of truck drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.01 and only 2 percent had a BAC greater than 0.08. However, nearly a quarter of passenger vehicle drivers involved in a fatal crash had a BAC of more than 0.01. One in five passenger vehicle drivers had a BAC greater than 0.08, the legal limit in most areas.

As far as how significant a role drugs played, it is hard to tell. No drug testing was issued in more than 60 percent of fatal truck-involved crashes. Of all fatal crashes where trucks were involved, less than 5 percent included a drug test with at least one positive drug result. About half of all drivers in all fatal crashes were tested for drugs, resulting in at least one positive result in 13.4 percent of crashes.

Less than 5 percent of truck-involved fatal crashes were the result of a truck rear-ending a passenger vehicles. Conversely, 16 percent of crashes were the result of a passenger vehicle rear-ending a truck. How many head-on collisions were the result of a truck crossing the center median? Only 2 percent. What about cars crossing the median? Nearly 17 percent.

About the Author


What attorneys need to know about Reptile Theory

Thomson Reuters Courtroom lawyers have an array of tactics at their disposal when trying to sway a jury to their side of a case. Some of these approaches are rooted in academic theories while others rely heavily on rhetoric and psychology. In almost every case,...

The ELD Hacking Threat

Jack Roberts Did you know your fleet’s electronic logging devices may be vulnerable to hackers? It’s true. Serjon, a cybersecurity firm specializing in fleet transportation security, held a press conference during the Technology & Maintenance Council annual...

2023 FMCSA Audits Year in Review

FMCSA and its state partners conducted more than 12,300 investigations in 2023 and continued its shift to more on-site audits, up 13% over 2022. Daren Hansen For the third year in a row, more DOT audits are being performed on-site. As a result, investigators are...