Road Management & Engineering Journal
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Based on their numbers on the road and the amount they travel, large trucks (tractor-trailers, single-unit trucks, and some cargo vans weighing more than 10,000 pounds) account for more than their share of highway deaths. Tractor-trailers have higher fatal crash rates per mile than passenger vehicles.1
Large truck occupant deaths number about 700 annually, but about 4,000 occupants of passenger vehicles die each year in collisions with large trucks. This amounts to more than one-fifth of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars.
|DEATHS IN TWO-VEHICLE CRASHES INVOLVING A LARGE TRUCK AND A PASSENGER VEHICLE|
|Passenger Vehicle||Large Truck|
Truck braking capability is a safety problem. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is worse when trailers are empty.2 Of a representative sample of trucks inspected in 1996, 29 percent were ordered off the road because of serious vehicle defects, more than half of which were brake defects.3 Antilock brakes help and are required on new tractors as of 1997 (new trailers as of 1998).4
Other issues involve the drivers of large trucks, who are allowed to drive up to 16 hours per day and 70 hours in 5 days.5 Surveys indicate that many drivers violate federal hours-of-service regulations.6,7 Other studies show drivers are much more likely to crash after long hours behind the wheel.8-13
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System:
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1998. Traffic safety facts 1997. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. DOT-HS-808-806.
2National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1987. Heavy truck safety study. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. DOT-HS-807-109.
3Federal Highway Administration. 1998. National fleet safety survey 1996. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. FHWA-MC-98-015.
4Federal Highway Administration. Parts and accessories necessary for safe operation; antilock brake systems. 49 CFR Part 393. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
5Federal Highway Administration. Hours of service of drivers. 49 CFR Part 395. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
6Braver, E.R.; Preusser, C.W.; Preusser, D.F.; Baum, H.M.; Beilock, R.; Ulmer, R. 1992. Long hours and fatigue: a survey of tractor-trailer drivers. Journal of Public Health Policy 13 (3): 341-366.
7McCartt, A.T.; Hammer, M.C.; and Fuller, S.Z. 1997. Work and sleep/rest factors associated with driving while drowsy experiences among long-distance truck drivers. 41st Annual Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 95-108. Des Plaines, IL: AAAM.
8Frith, W.J. 1994. A case-control study of heavy vehicle drivers' working time and safety. Proceedings of the 17th Australian Road Research Board Conference, 17:17-30. Queensland, Australia: Australian Road Research Board.
9Jones, I.S. And Stein, H.S. 1989. Defective equipment and tractor-trailer crash involvement. Accident Analysis and Prevention 21:469-81.
10Lin, T.D.; Jovanis, P.P.; and Yang, C.Z. 1994. Time of day models of motor carrier accident risk. Transportation Research Record, 1467:1-8. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board.
11Mackie, R.R. and Miller, J.C. 1978. Effects of hours of service, regularity of schedules, and cargo loading on truck and bus driver fatigue (DOT-HS-803-799). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
12Saccomanno, F.F.; Shortreed, J.H.; And Yu, M. 1996. Effect of driver fatigue on commercial vehicle accidents. Truck Safety: Perceptions and Reality, 157-74. Waterloo, Canada: The Institute for Risk Research.
13Summala, H. and Mikkola, T. 1994. Fatal accidents among car and truck drivers: effects of fatigue, age, and alcohol consumption. Human Factors 36:315-26.
14Federal Highway Administration. 1998. Highway statistics 1998. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/hs98/tables/vm1.pdf (accessed Sept. 15, 1999).