Fatalities caused by trucks

Literature Review

Large trucks are defined as commercial vehicles that weigh more than 10000 lbs and are use in facilitating the movement of products. These vehicles have been important in history through their contribution to the national growth of the economy. The choice of large trucks is particularly useful in bridging the gap between mainland areas and seaports as well as airports and railway stations. The transportation of products from their initial location to a terminal where other modes of transport can access them is facilitated large trucks. Despite their huge importance, however, the price of these good has been paid through the lives of people through accidents. In fact, large trucks are attributable to approximately 12% of all annual traffic fatalities (Cerrelli, 1998).

One major concern among car truck crushes is the relative contribution of truck vs. car drivers through fault. Welki & Zlatoper (2010) examined truck safety by considering the fatal car-truck crashes using time series data from the years 1975 to 1999. According to the analysis, the number of fatalities has been on a general decline since the year 1975. Importantly, data for both truck occupants and other vehicle occupants reflected the same trend. However, there was an upward movement in the number of fatalities among occupants of the other vehicle in the 1990s. Interestingly, the number of deaths has shifted from truck occupants to occupants of other vehicles in truck accidents over the last two decades raising concern. Welki & Zlatoper (2010) used regression analysis to determine the ratio of other vehicle occupant fatalities to truck occupant fatalities. The factors used in the model are the car size to truck size and nontruck vehicle miles to truck travel vehicle miles as well as the characteristics of the driving population.

Loeb & Clarke (2007) further assess the various determinants of truck accidents to gain an understanding of the causative factors for the rising cases of truck accidents. In particular, the research hypothesizes a relationship between the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and the high incidence of truck accidents. Moreover, other determining factors were also tested and their results analyzed before any conclusions were made. In the analysis, Loeb & Clarke (2007) developed econometric models using time series data from 1970 to 2001. In addition, a string of strict error tests was conducted to enhance the reliability of the results obtained. Data collected in the study was used to test the relationship between the deregulation of the trucking industry and the number of truck accidents. In addition, the same data further tested the impact of certain demographic and social aspects on the number of truck accidents including the consumption of alcohol and the age group of the drivers.

The findings of the study were negative for the relationship between deregulation of trucking industry and incidence of high truck accidents. There was no significant statistic association between the implementation of the Motor Carrier act of 1980 and high truck accidents in the country. Ideally, alcohol is directly attributed to the high number of truck accidents owing to its negative impact on the judgment of the drivers. In contrast, however, unemployment rates were inversely proportional to truck accidents with high unemployment rates resulting in lower truck accidents. Loeb & Clarke (2007) further found out that truck accidents per mile driven were directly related to levels of alcohol consumption.

Cerrelli (1998) examined the different trends in large truck crashes in the United States over the period from 1975 to 1995. Data from this study was then used to make inferences and predictions about future trends in the industry and the possible recommendations to avert the danger of accidents. The research employed regression analysis to derive ratios between the various variables under study. In particular, the age of the driver was analyzed for the potential impact on large truck crash and its implication on the fatal consequences of the crash. The hypotheses were tested through a comparison of datasets of two groups of crashes within the period of 1993 to 1995. The choice of three years of data was appropriate in obtaining more stable results especially in age groups that had smaller number of licensed drivers. Lastly, data collected was divided into two groups: drivers of cars involved in crashes with large trucks, and drivers of vehicles involved in non-large-truck vehicles.

Results from the study indicated that large vehicles account for about 6 percent of all reported crashes. While the number of truck travel has doubled in the studied years, the number of crashes has remained almost the same thereby reducing the ratio of crashes to truck travels. In addition, the number of truck crash fatalities has reduced over the years under study to a minimum of 585 in 1992.  There is a significant increase in the ratio of passenger occupant to truck occupants over the years under study. In fact, Cerrelli (1998) found that the ratio had increased from 16 to 1 in the 1970s to almost 32 to 1 in the 1990s sparking concern. These findings point out to a constant or minor change in the number of truck occupant fatalities while increasing the number of non truck occupant fatalities.

Involvement in a collision with a large truck increases the chance of fatal injury to the driver of a non truck vehicle by nine fold compared to collisions of passenger vehicles (Ortega eta la, 2014). However, the increased probability is not uniform across the different ages as the youngest age group seems to suffer the highest number of fatalities. In the 1970s, the fatalities from truck crashes were relatively constant at around 7 to 8 percent of all accident fatalities (Loeb & Clarke, 2007). Perhaps the reason for this development is because a large number of truck drivers do not comply with the speed limits of major highways therefore exposing their lives and those of other road users to great risk.

Studies have pointed out an increase in the number of fatal accidents involving large trucks have increased over time. The primary cause of these crashes has been pointed out as negligence and non compliance of drivers, road and vehicle conditions as well as alcohol consumption (Welki & Zlatoper, 2010). In addition, behavior of the driver is largely to blame for the increase in both the number of large truck crashes and fatalities over time. Mostly, driver fatigue and excessive speeds has been identified in the past as a major cause of fatalities in large truck accidents. In most of the large truck crash fatalities, the drivers of the said vehicles have been found to be at fault (Ortega et al, 2014) and some charged in courts of law. Moreover, vehicle defects and mechanical failures are also reported as feasible cause of in most crashes involving large truck vehicles.



Cerrelli, E. C., United States., & National Center for Statistics and Analysis (U.S.). (1998). Trends in large truck crashes. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Welki, A. M., & Zlatoper, T. J. (2010, October). The Increasing Fatality Burden of Other Vehicle Occupants in US Large Truck Accidents. In Journal of the Transportation Research Forum (Vol. 43, No. 2).

Loeb, P. D., & Clarke, W. A. (2007). The determinants of truck accidents. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 43(4), 442-452.

Ortega, A., Vassallo, J. M., Guzman, A. F., & Pérez-Martínez, P. J. (2014). Are longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs) beneficial for society? A cost benefit analysis to evaluate their potential implementation in Spain. Transport reviews, 34(2), 150-168.


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