The Dangers of Large Trucks

May 27, 2012

The annual death toll from truck-related crashes is the equivalent of twenty-six major airplane crashes every year. There is no getting around it; collisions with trucks are just more dangerous than your average fender bender. Large trucks- tractor-trailers, heavy cargo trucks, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks- are more than 10,000 pounds of steel hurtling down the highway. In fact, the largest legal weight for a truck is 80,000 pounds without a special permit! If these massive vehicles lose control, the damage is often catastrophic. In fact, the fatal crash rate for large trucks is 2.4 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. This is more than 50% greater than the rate for all vehicles on the road. In a collision involving a large truck and smaller passenger vehicle, it is often the latter that is severely impacted. Many times, the truck driver will walk away with minor injuries-if any, while the driver or passengers of the smaller vehicle are left with catastrophic injuries and damages. In fact, in two-vehicle crashes involving passenger vehicles and large trucks, 98% of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly one quarter of occupant deaths in passenger vehicles that had multi-vehicle collisions were the result of crashes involving large trucks. This particular vulnerability is due to the massive difference in sheer size and weight of a large commercial truck. That is why the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety advocates freezing truck size and weight. They argue that bigger trucks compromise safety. According to the advocates, the risk for accident and death increases for each pound over the federal gross vehicle weight of 80,000 lbs. In fact, a truck weighing the legal 80,000 is about twice as likely to be involved in a fatal truck accident, than one weighing 50,000. They also argue that one 80,000 pound truck does as much damage to a road as 9,600 cars! As the industry standard to large commercial truck size continues to grow, many advocates for highway safety worry that the risk for fatal truck accidents will increase. Their logic is quite simple really, and could potentially save thousands of lives!