Heavy trucks play a substantial role in the American transportation industry.
Also known as a semi-trailer or a “big-rig,” the tractor-trailer is the heavy truck most commonly used for long-distance deliveries of goods and materials on American roads. Other trucks that are classified as “heavy” or “large” include dump trucks, cement mixers, and garbage trucks. Drivers are required by state and federal law to possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL) before they can legally operate a heavy truck.
A typical semi consists of a tractor (or “cab”) that pulls one or more trailers. Tractor-trailers are sometimes referred to as “18-wheelers” because the combination of tractor and trailer often travels on 18 wheels, but the number of wheels may vary, depending on the truck’s configuration. The maximum gross weight of a tractor-trailer is usually 80,000 pounds, but states can issue permits to allow heavier trucks to use their roads.
Facts about truck crash.
Large trucks (generally classified as those weighing more than 10,000 pounds) were involved in more than 342,000 crashes in 2013, resulting in 95,000 injuries and almost 4,000 deaths. Nearly three-quarters of the injury victims in those crashes (including victims who died) were occupants of passenger vehicles. Another 11% of fatalities caused by large truck crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Large trucks account for only 4% of registered vehicles in the United States. They were nevertheless involved in 9% of all fatal crashes in 2013, as opposed to 3% of all crashes that did not produce fatal injuries. Those statistics make clear that passenger vehicle occupants are exposed to a substantial risk of death when they are victims of a collision with a big-rig.
Large trucks are also disproportionately involved in multiple-vehicle crashes. The size and weight of a semi makes it more likely to initiate a chain reaction than, for example, a rear-end collision caused by a Toyota Prius.
Types of large truck crash
The deadliest accidents with tractor-trailers tend to be collisions, but other kinds of accidents can also lead to serious injuries. Here are some examples of accidents with large trucks that injure the occupants of passenger vehicles.
About 31% of fatal collisions with large trucks involve the front end of the truck striking the front end of another vehicle. Usually both vehicles are driving straight ahead but roughly 10% of head-on collisions with trucks occur on a curve. Head-on crashes typically happen when a driver crosses the centerline. An accident reconstruction engineer may need to investigate the accident scene and inspect the damaged vehicles when it is unclear which vehicle entered the other vehicle’s traffic lane.
In about 15% of fatal collisions with semis, the truck strikes the left side of a passenger vehicle. In another 11%, the truck strikes the right side of a passenger vehicle. Much less frequently, the front of the car strikes the side of the semi. Most of those collisions occur in intersections, when one driver fails to yield to the other or fails to obey a traffic light or stop sign.
Since heavy trucks cannot accelerate quickly, a truck that merges into traffic from a freeway on-ramp can cause an accident by entering the traffic lane before faster oncoming vehicles have a chance to change lanes.