What You Should Know about Large Truck Accidents

July 12, 2016 by

Fear of large trucks on the roadways is relatively common—enough so that horror movies sometimes even monopolize on that fear by focusing on unstable drivers or even evil, driverless trucks.

We know, of course, that most truck drivers are highly competent and do not cause accidents. However, when collisions involving large trucks (those over 10,000 pounds) do happen, the outcome is often tragic, not to mention a legal nightmare. Truck drivers, as well as the motoring public, should understand the realities of large and small vehicles sharing the road in various conditions and at high speeds.

Large Truck Accidents Are Prevalent and Severe

For a sense of how prevalent and severe large truck accidents can be in the United States, it’s important to understand some of the facts:

  • Approximately 411,000 large truck crashes were reported to the police in 2014.
  • 3,660 people died in large truck accidents in 2014, 68% of them being in vehicles other than the truck.
  • About 10 percent of highway deaths happen in large truck crashes.
  • In 2012, four percent of registered vehicles were large trucks, but large trucks accounted for eight percent of all vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
  • Eighty-one percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks also involved more than one other vehicle.

Every accident is unfortunate, but it’s clear that big trucks play a larger role than most vehicles in serious traffic incidents. Let’s explore why this is the case.

Large Truck Accidents Have Many Causes

Obviously, large trucks are far bigger than the majority of other vehicles on the road, and this makes them more dangerous in collisions. Other factors also influence how likely trucks are to be involved in serious accidents, and there have been studies to determine why truck crashes are so lethal.

For example, according to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle crashes are complex and have many influencing factors. The accidents in the sample from this particular study all involved fatality or injury and at least one large truck. The study found three primary types of critical events (caused by the trucks) that resulted in accidents:

  •  Thirty-two percent of large trucks ran out of their travel lane, either going into another lane or off the road.
  • Twenty-nine percent of large trucks lost control of the vehicle due to cargo shift, driving too fast, road conditions, or vehicle system failure.
  • Twenty-two percent of large trucks collided with the rear end of a vehicle in their travel lane.

Who Is at Fault?

Those dangerous scenarios are all avoidable, and when truck drivers are considered at fault for the accident, the causes are divided into four major categories:

1. Non-Performance: Driver was asleep or was otherwise physically disabled
2. Recognition: Driver was inattentive, distracted, or non-observant for some reason
3. Decision: Driver was driving too fast, following too closely, or misjudging the speed of other vehicles
4. Performance: Driver panicked, overcompensated, or had poor directional control

In any accident involving a large truck, it’s important to keep in mind potentially associated factors, including:

  • Overdue maintenance
  • Brake problems
  • Fatigue
  • Drug use
  • Traffic flow interruptions
  • Unfamiliarity with roadways

Considering how much time trucks spend on the road and how many hours drivers spend behind the wheel (up to 11 hours without a significant break), not to mention the sheer size of semi trucks, it’s not surprising that trucks often encounter these situations and factors.

The Truck Driver Is Not Always at Fault

It would be unfair and incorrect to assume that truck drivers cause every accident in which they are involved. Although trucks tend to cause more damage and protect their drivers from fatalities and other serious injury, the drivers are not always at fault for the incident.

In fact, according to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study on fatal car-truck crashes, risky driver factors were assigned to 81 percent of the car drivers and only 26 percent of the truck drivers (with a small overlap where both drivers were assigned blame).

For example, car drivers in car-truck accidents are more likely to be:

  • Asleep at the wheel
  • Driving aggressively
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Fatigued

Trucks may be involved with a large number of severe traffic accidents, but many truck drivers uphold professional standards. Thus, while there may be a smaller percentage of truck drivers engaging in dangerous behavior compared to the typical driver on the road, the truck drivers who do cause crashes generally cause very severe ones. The message to car drivers here is to not take chances around large vehicles, as a truck crash has a higher chance of being fatal.

Hossley & Embry: Advocating for Trucking Accident Victims

Regardless of cause and fault, accidents involving large trucks are too often tragic. If you or someone you love has experienced injury or lost a loved one in a truck-related crash, please contact our office at (866) 522-9265 to set up a free, confidential case evaluation. Our legal professionals will help you determine the best course of legal action so you can focus on recovery. We have the resources available (including charter aircraft) to travel throughout Texas and the United States on short notice to investigate your potential claim.


American Trucking Associations, relative contribution/fault in car-truck crashes. (2013). Trucking.org. Retrieved from http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/News%20and%20Information/Reports%20Trends%20and%20Statistics/02%2012%2013%20–%20FINAL%202013%20Car-Truck%20Fault%20Paper.pdf

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration interstate truck driver’s guide to hours of service. (2015). Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. http://www.isri.org/docs/default-source/transportation-safety/drivers-guide-to-hos-2015_508.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Large truck and bus crash facts 2014. (2016). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2014

Large trucks 2014. (2014). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks

The large truck crash causation study – Analysis brief. (2014). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief

Traffic safety facts 2012 data, large trucks. (2014). U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811868.pdf