The Hard Facts About Trucking Accidents

Truckers sometimes get a bad rap. Some safety advocate groups unfairly blame them for causing many wrecks. Headlines often trumpet the dangers posed by supposedly bad truck drivers.

However, truckers are actually some of the safest drivers on the road. Compared to other drivers mile-for-mile, truckers are less likely to cause a wreck.

And that's not an easy feat considering how many truckers are on the road. Over 500,000 American trucking companies have more than 15 million trucks out at any given time. Truck drivers cover more than 432.9 billion miles of American roads annually.

Given those numbers, you might expect truckers to be involved in a large amount of the wrecks on U.S. roads, but that's simply not the case. With all that time spent on the road, truck driving jobs do carry a greater risk of being involved in a wreck when compared to types of drivers. In hard numbers, though, truckers are involved in a surprisingly low number of wrecks.

According to data from Ask the Truck and the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5.5 million wrecks happened on U.S. roads in 2010, killing 30,797 people. Trucks were involved in only 500,000 wrecks and in under 9 percent of wreck-related deaths.

Long-term historical data shows an even lower rate of wrecks involving trucks. The vast majority of wrecks involve passenger sedans and pickup trucks, which respectively account for 54.1 percent and 41 percent of wrecks each. In contrast, large trucks are caught up in only 3.1 percent of wrecks. That's followed by motorcycles involved in 1.1 percent, buses in 0.6 percent and other types of vehicles in 0.2 percent of the remainder of wrecks.

In three-quarters of the wrecks involving trucks, someone other than the truck driver was at fault. Truckers were responsible for only 25 percent of the wrecks for which they were involved in 2010.

Critics often point to driver fatigue as a common danger posed by truck drivers, and even the White House cites driver fatigue as a justification for its recent changes to hours of service regulations. However, driver fatigue was a factor in only 4 percent of truck wrecks and in even fewer – 1.4 percent – of fatal wrecks involving trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ranks driver fatigue as only the No. 7 cause of fatal wrecks involving trucks.

Many factors other truck drivers contribute to fatal wrecks: 61 percent were single-vehicle wrecks, 32 percent had alcohol as a factor, and distracted driving causes 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries annually.

In addition to putting safe drivers on the road, the trucking industry also contributes to the maintenance and improvement of those roads for other drivers. Typically, truckers pay $34.7 billion in annual taxes that is directed toward road projects.

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