Exploring the Most Common Truck Accidents in America

Overhead view of a highway with a semi truck in the middle

Trucks are the backbone of the American economy, hauling vital goods across vast distances. However, their sheer size and weight also make them potentially dangerous actors on the road. A single truck accident can already be so devastating, with far more severe consequences than those involving passenger vehicles.

In this article, we explore the world of truck accidents, exploring their types, statistics, causes, and potential mitigations using insurance.

Most Common Types of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are a harsh reality on America’s roads. These large vehicles of the highway, while crucial for our economy, can cause significant damage and claim lives when things go wrong.

Here’s a breakdown the most common types of these collisions:

A truck in a rollover accident

Lane Change Accidents/Blind Spot accident

Due to large blind spots on the sides and rear of trucks, truck drivers can easily miss smaller vehicles when changing to other lanes, resulting in collisions. These accidents can be especially dangerous at high speeds or in heavy traffic.

This type of accident is the most common truck accident in America, accounting for roughly 29% of all truck-involved crashes.

Rear-end Collisions

These occur when a car stops abruptly and the following truck is unable to brake in time. The massive momentum of the truck can cause severe damage to the car and serious injuries to its occupants. Distracted driving and tailgating are often to blame.

Rear end accidents are the second most common type of truck accident in America, making up around 23% of truck-related accidents in America.

Jackknifing

When a truck driver brakes suddenly or makes a sharp turn at high speed, the trailer can swing out at an extreme angle, resembling a folded pocketknife. This can lead to rollovers and multi-vehicle crashes.

Underride Accidents

Smaller vehicles can become lodged under the high clearance of a truck’s trailer during a collision. This can trap the occupants and cause severe injuries or fatalities.

Rollover Accidents

Top-heavy trucks can tip over if they take a sharp turn, hit a curb, or encounter uneven terrain. This can cause serious injuries to the truck driver and anyone else involved in the accident.

A person typing on a laptop

Data on Truck Accidents in America

While truck accidents thankfully don’t happen every day, when they do, the consequences can be devastating.

Here are some eye-opening data and numbers from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS), that highlight their impact and the factors that contribute to them.

Size Matters

It’s no surprise that the sheer size of trucks plays a major role in accident severity. In 2021, 71% of fatalities in large truck crashes were occupants of other vehicles, highlighting the disproportionate impact these collisions have on passenger car drivers and passengers.

A Deadly Domino Effect

Truck accidents often have a domino effect, causing multiple vehicle pileups. According to the FMCSA, in 2021, large trucks were involved in 5,604 fatal crashes, resulting in a staggering 5,120 deaths.

Additionally, 190,000 injury crashes involving large trucks occurred, leading to 155,000 injuries.

Blind Spots Become Deadly Zones

Large blind spots around trucks, especially on the sides and rear, are danger zones for smaller vehicles. A 2019 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 40% of fatal crashes involving passenger cars and large trucks were caused by other vehicles being in the truck’s blind spot.

Fatigue Takes Its Toll

Long hours on the road and tight deadlines can lead to drowsy driving, significantly impacting a truck driver’s reaction time and judgment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatigue is a contributing factor in 10% of all truck crashes.

Speeding for Deliveries

The pressure to meet delivery schedules can tempt some truck drivers to exceed safe speed limits. In 2021, speeding was a contributing factor in 27% of fatal crashes involving large trucks.

 

What Are the Other Causes of Trucking Accidents?

While the sheer size and weight of trucks undoubtedly contribute to the severity of their accidents, it’s vital to remember that various underlying factors can lead to a catastrophic truck accident.

Here’s a deep dive into the specific causes beyond the imposing presence of these giants of the road:

A truck driver experiencing fatigue

Driver-Related

Driver fatigue: As mentioned above, long hours behind the wheel, coupled with tight deadlines, can lead to drowsy driving, significantly impairing the reaction time and judgment of the trucker, which lead to large truck crashes

Distracted driving: Just like other drivers, truck drivers can be distracted by cell phones, eating, or adjusting in-cab controls. These distractions can divert their attention away from the road, increasing the risk of collisions.

Speeding: As mentioned above, the pressure to meet delivery schedules, some truck drivers may exceed safe speed limits and even run red lights, compromising their ability to maneuver and brake effectively.

Aggressive driving: Tailgating, improper lane changes, and unsafe passing maneuvers can all lead to devastating consequences, especially when involving massive trucks.

Driving under the influence (DUI): Use of alcohol and other substances can heavily impair the ability of commercial drivers to drive. Aside from causing a possible devastating truck accident, truck drivers can have their commercial driver’s license suspended because of this.

Vehicle and Maintenance Issues

Faulty brakes and tires: Worn-out or malfunctioning brakes and tires can significantly reduce a truck’s stopping power, increasing the risk of rear-end truck accidents and jackknifing accidents.

Improperly secured cargo: Cargo that shifts or spills during transit can create balance issues and cause the truck to swerve, potentially leading to rollovers or multi-vehicle crashes.

Overloaded trailers: Exceeding weight limits puts immense strain on the truck’s brakes and suspension, making it difficult to control and increasing the risk of accidents.

Environmental Factors

Adverse weather conditions: Rain, snow, and fog can reduce visibility and traction, making it challenging for large trucks to navigate safely. These conditions can lead to increased stopping distances and loss of control.

Poor road conditions: Potholes, uneven surfaces, and lack of proper signage can contribute to truck accidents by causing tire blowouts, loss of control, and unexpected hazards.

A truck driver giving a thumbs up

How Can Insurance Help Mitigate Costs of Truck Accidents?

When a truck accident strikes, the consequences can be devastating, leaving a trail of emotional trauma and financial burdens. While mitigating the emotional impact may require time and support, alleviating the financial strain can be aided with comprehensive insurance.

Let’s explore how insurance acts as a buffer against the financial burden of a truck accident, offering protection for both those involved and those indirectly affected.

Insurance for the Truck Driver and Trucking Company

  • Commercial truck insurance: Comprehensive policies provide coverage for liability in case of injuries, property damage, and cargo loss resulting from accidents. This can help protect trucking companies from crippling financial losses due to lawsuits, repairs, and medical expenses.
  • Cargo insurance: This covers the value of the cargo being transported in case of damage or loss during an accident. This protects trucking companies from financial responsibility for damaged or lost goods entrusted to them.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: If a truck driver is injured in an accident, this insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs. This minimizes the financial burden on the driver and their family during a difficult time.

Insurance for Individuals Involved in Truck Accidents

  • Personal auto insurance: Collision and comprehensive coverage help repair or replace damaged vehicles for passenger car drivers involved in truck accidents. This can save individuals from significant financial strain due to car repairs or replacements.
  • Medical insurance: This covers the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation for those injured in truck accidents. This can ease the financial burden of medical bills and ensure proper care for injured individuals.
  • Umbrella insurance: For high-net-worth individuals, umbrella insurance provides additional liability protection above and beyond the limits of other insurance policies. This can be especially helpful in cases of severe truck accidents with substantial damages.

While insurance cannot erase the emotional toll of a truck accident, it can be a crucial safety net, alleviating the financial burden and allowing individuals and businesses to focus on recovery and rebuilding their lives.

Explore a variety of insurance options available and gain valuable protection and peace of mind through our Premium Control Plan (PCP). Keep in touch with our TRS-certified agents and get your truck insurance quote today.