The University Record, October 8, 1997

Large truck crashes declined in 1995

Crashes involving large trucks declined from 151,000 in 1994 to 129,000 in 1995. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

Crashes involving large trucks on U.S. roads declined in 1995, the most recent year with complete crash data, says a U-M researcher.

About 129,000 single-unit commercial trucks and single and multiple semi-trailer trucks were involved in fatal, injury or tow-away crashes in 1995˜down from 151,000 the year before and the lowest number since 1991.

The figures are from the recently released 1995 edition of the Truck and Bus Crash Factbook, an annual publication produced by the U-M Center for National Truck Statistics for the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Motor Carriers. The Center, directed by Kenneth L. Campbell, is part of the U-M Transportation Research Institute.

According to the report, 4,631 trucks were involved in fatal crashes (resulting in nearly 5,100 deaths) in 1995, compared with more than 5,300 deaths in nearly 4,800 fatal collisions the year before.

In addition, 51,000 trucks were involved in crashes in 1995 in which at least one person was transported to a medical facility but did not die (resulting in 99,000 non-fatal injuries˜down 11 percent); 73,000 trucks were involved in crashes with no fatalities or injuries, but with at least one vehicle damaged severely enough to be towed (down 19 percent from the previous year).

"The number of passenger cars involved in traffic crashes dwarfs the number of trucks, but truck crashes tend to be more serious," says study author Daniel F. Blower. "There was one truck for every 28 passenger cars involved in a crash, but one truck for every seven cars involved in a fatal crash. Differences in mass, obviously, help explain this disparity."

About two-thirds of the fatal truck collisions, Blower says, involved just one other vehicle, and in these crashes, driver-related factors contributing to the crash were attributed to less than 30 percent of the truck drivers. On the other hand, nearly 80 percent of the drivers in the other vehicle in these crashes were coded for driving errors, such as speeding, improper turns, failure to yield and failure to obey traffic controls.

"It is important to note that while the actions may involve violations of traffic ordinances, they do not indicate that any violation was charged to the driver," Blower says. "The factors presented here are simply driver errors noted by the police officer. However, bear in mind that in fatal crashes, the fatality most often occurs outside the truck."

The study shows that in fatal rear-end collisions, trucks are struck about twice as often by other cars as they are the striking vehicles. In addition, head-on crashes accounted for about 23 percent of fatal truck involvements.

Other findings in the study include: