Fatal Truck Accidents- Statistics, Costs, Causes & Legal Claims Regulations

by Personal Injury Claims Blawg on April 22, 2021

The cost of a truck accident or indeed any road traffic accident can vary substantially from one accident to the next. Dependent on the unique variables involved in a specific accident, whether or not there were fatal injuries involved and the type of injuries sustained will directly impact and correlate with the average amount that a truck accident costs.

How Much Does The Average Fatal Truck Accident Cost?

According to the FMCSA the average cost of fatal accidents involving trucks with a weight of more than 10,000 pounds equates to $3,604,518 per fatal accident. However this report was published in 2007 and this amount, adjusted to inflation, equates to 4.604 million in 2021 (27.7% rate of inflation from 2007 to 2021).

This average cost can increase from one state to the next. The cost of a fatal accident can be substantial and can vary from one state jurisdiction to the next. 

In 2019, The North Carolina Department of Transportation estimated that a fatal crash involving a truck in North Carolina, costs on average $10,417,000. The costs of truck crashes reduce in total cost per crash as accident severity decreases. 

Generally speaking the cost of a fatal accident will surpass seven figures. These costs increase with severity and the amount of individuals that were fatally injured. 

How Many Fatal Crashes Occur From Bus & Truck Accidents in The United States?

Bus and truck accidents account for thousands of crashes annually in the United States. From 1975 to 2018, the amount of truck accidents varied dramatically from year to the next. The fewest amount of truck accidents in a given year was in 2009. In fact, the three fewest amounts of bus and truck accidents in the United States occurred between 2009 (3,193), 2010 (3,512) and 2011 (3,593). It does not matter how damage is your car after an accident SELL US YOUR VEHICLE IN ANY CONDITION!

Conversely there have been years that accounted for a much larger amount of fatal accidents. The late 1970’s and the decade of the 1980’s had several fatal accidents involving trucks and busses. The highest years for fatal accidents relating to bus and truck accidents are 1979 (6,007), 1978 (5,758) and 1980 (5,353). 

It’s curious to consider that both the fewest amounts of fatal accidents, along with the largest amounts of fatal accidents involved years that occured in three year time spans. The fewest amounts of fatal accidents in a given three year time frame was between 2009-2011 for an average of 3,433 fatal accidents per year. The largest amounts of fatal accidents in a three year time frame occurred between 1978-1980 for an average of 5,706 fatal truck and bus accidents per year.

The table below outlines the amount of fatal crashes involving large trucks and busses between 1975 and 2018. Crashes peaked in the late 1970’s and generally decreased as time progressed.  The grey section from 2016-2018 had a spike in fatal accidents as trucks were reclassified to include some vehicles that were previously considered as light trucks. 

For years between 1975 – 2018, there were a total of 202,542 fatal crashes that involved large trucks or busses. Over this period of time, the average amount of fatal accidents amounted to 4,710 annually. 

What Causes Fatal Truck Crashes To Increase or Decrease?

There is no one-size fits all answer for this question. Rather there are numerous components that can impact the amount of fatal crashes in a given period of time. As time progressed over the latter quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there were several regulations in the trucking industry that limited the amount of time that limits the amount of time trucking drivers can drive, along with other factors that a trucking professional can and cannot do.

While driving regulations were implemented into the trucking industry beginning in 1938. The now abolished Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) set rules and regulations that outlined the amount of driving hours were limited to. However the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 deregulated the trucking industry and drastically weakened and decentralized the trucking unions. When unions are weakened, this can in turn lead to higher levels of competition, changes to the industrial norms and a shift in wages.

In 1982, The Surface Transportation Assistance Act was implemented that protected whistleblowers that reported safety violations from facing retaliatory measures. Whistleblowers that report unsafe working conditions can help facilitate a safer working environment, but whistleblowers can also become targets of retaliatory measures from employers and colleagues. While fatal accidents initially decreased in 1982, fatal accidents rebounded to an average of 5,074 bus and truck accidents over from 1983-1989.

In 1991, the US Congress recognized a need for a drug and alcohol free workplace in the transportation industry. The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act required Department of Transportation Agencies to test their employees for alcohol and drugs. The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act did not result in a significant decrease of fatal accidents over the following years.   

In 2003, changes were applied to the hours of service rules mandating a “34-hour restart”. The 34 hour restart period allowed truckers to reset their workweek if that driver is nearing the maximum allotment of trucking hours in a week. 

It is important to note that in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adjusted the vehicle classification of a truck to include 329 light pickup trucks as large trucks. With larger amounts of vehicles now classified as “large trucks”, the amount of fatal accidents in the three year period from 2016 – 2018, jumped drastically compared to the prior three year period from 2013 – 2015. 

For fatal truck accident data in the last quarter of the 20th century the average amount of fatal truck accidents in a given year equates to 5,092 per year.  

In the 21st Century (2000 – 2018) the average amount of fatal truck accidents in a given year amounts to 4,462 fatal crashes that involved large trucks or busses.

Between 2013 – 2015, the average annual amount of  fatal accidents equates to 3,780. After the classification of a trucking vehicle was revised, the amount of accidents increased to 4,537 per year. This reclassification of what is considered a large truck (greater than 10,000 lbs) resulted in an increase of fatal accidents in the amount of 20%. 

Do More Trucks On The Road Lead to More Truck Accidents?

While the average number of trucks continue to increase as the population of the United States grows, one would hypothesize that as the population grows, and as more trucks are on the road, the increase of fatal truck accidents would also follow. However, this is not the case. An increase in trucking regulations and safety measures helped facilitate a smaller amount of truck accidents as the amount of trucks on the road increased. 

Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include failure to maintain a truck, driver fatigue, excess speed, impaired driving and improper loading or hiring of unqualified drivers. 

For data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fatal truck accidents decreased in the 21st century compared to the latter quarter of the 20th century. The reduction of annual average fatal truck accidents reduced from 1975-1999 compared to the years 2000 – 2018. Since 2000, the average annual amount of fatal truck accidents have experienced a decrease in fatal accidents. The decrease in the 21st century equates to a 12.4% reduction compared to data available from 1975-1999.

As the years have progressed, trucking regulations and new safety measures have helped fatal accidents decrease from one decade to the next. It is however important to remember that as the population grows, so too does the demand for products – and the vast majority of products are delivered by trucks. 

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

PI claims blogger at PIClaimsBlawg
Personal Injury Claims Blawg is a personal injury law blog, inviting contributions from practitioners, PI law firms and legal academics across the UK, US and beyond. The post above has been published because of the high value associated with the author's work. Contact us if you'd like to get published today.

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