Fatal Truck and 18-Wheeler Crashes Trend Higher Across Texas and the United States
Trucking has become one of the most dangerous professions in the United States, as serious and fatal crashes involving 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks continue to rise in frequency across the country.
Fatal Truck Accidents Rose 6% in 2017
According to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), some 12 million registered commercial trucks currently transport close to 70% of the country’s freight. That amounts to roughly $671 billion worth of retail and manufactured goods each year!
At least 4,567 fatal trucking accidents occurred on the nation’s roads and highways in 2017, representing 9% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes that year.
The vast majority – 79% — involved big rigs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, of more than 26,000 lbs. Combination trucks — tractor-trailer rigs, doubles, and straight trucks pulling a trailer – accounted for roughly 2/3 of those crashes.
Fatalities involving tractor-trailers were up nearly 6% compared to 2016, while those involving straight trucks rose by nearly 19%.
Truck Driver Deaths Increase, while the Motoring Public is at the Greatest Risk
Crashes involving “class 8” trucks that weigh over 33,000 lbs. claimed the lives of 3,844 truck drivers in 2017, an increase of 212 over the prior year. Speed contributed to 17% of these crashes, while in 39% of the incidents, the truck driver was not wearing a seat belt.
When combined with trucker deaths from other factors, these accidents made trucking one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, with 26.8 fatalities per 10,000 workers compared to 3.5 deaths per 10,000 workers overall.
While the increase is certainly concerning, the occupants of smaller passenger vehicles remain the most vulnerable when involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck. Since 1974, car-truck crashes have killed 208,809 people, including 146,123 traveling in cars and other passenger vehicles.
Texas Leads Nation in Fatal Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents
Deadly truck and 18-wheeler accidents are on the rise in Texas, which experienced the most fatal crashes (1,386) between 2015 and 2017. The Lone Star State was followed by California with 846, Florida with 693, Georgia with 514, and Pennsylvania with 405.
However, Southern California dominated at the county level, with Los Angeles County recording 123 fatal truck crashes during the same period, San Bernardino logging 81, and Kern County earning the fifth spot with 71. Three Texas’ counties did make the top 10: Harris County (third, with 81), Dallas (sixth, with 59), and Tarrant (ninth, with 44.)
Meanwhile, the top cities for fatal truck and 18-wheeler accidents included:
- New York, New York: 69 crashes.
- Houston, Texas: 48 crashes.
- Los Angeles California: 42 crashes.
- Dallas, Texas: 42 crashes.
- Jacksonville, Florida: 35 crashes.
- Memphis, Tennessee: 34 crashes.
- San Antonio, Texas: 32 crashes.
- Phoenix, Arizona: 30 crashes.
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: 30 crashes.
- Chicago, Illinois: 27 crashes.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
Underride crashes are among the most common causes of trucking-related deaths, and accounted for 910 deadly accidents between 2015 and 2017. Pennsylvania came out on top, with 118 fatal underride crashes, followed by California (89) and Texas (69).
A truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way to another vehicle was the leading cause of fatal crashes in 2017, and resulted in 554 deadly collisions.
Other common truck accident causes included:
- Careless driving: 556 crashes.
- Improper lane usage: 369 crashes.
- Failure to obey traffic signs/signals: 283 crashes.
- Improperly following another vehicle: 251 crashes.
- Overcorrecting: 199 crashes.
- Stopping in Roadway: 125 crashes.
- Improper lane change: 118 crashes.
- Making an improper turn: 101 crashes.
Truck Accidents Most Likely on Thursdays and Fridays and Least Likely on Sundays
Most fatal tuck and 18-wheeler accidents occur on weekdays, with Thursdays (1,916) taking the lead. Fridays (1,871) were a close second, while Wednesday (1,856) turned out to be the third deadliest day of the week.
Meanwhile, Sundays saw the fewest fatal truck accidents, with just 701.
Although many people would expect rush hour to be prime time for deadly truck and 18-wheeler crashes, the greatest number actually occurred between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.— which, due to the body’s natural “circadian dip,” is one of the two times of day when truck drivers are most likely to be fatigued.
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