Canadian Underwriter

Car drivers mostly at fault in U.S. fatal collisions involving trucks: report

February 13, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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The American Trucking Associations announced Tuesday it released a report that studied cause factors of collisions in the United States causing death or serious injury involving trucks.


“Almost all crashes are triggered by a particular driver error or other failure occurring in one of the involved vehicles,” according to the report from Arlington, Va.-based ATA, titled Relative Contribution/Fault in Car-Truck Crashes. “The majority of fatal and serious injury crashes involving a truck also involve at least one car. The preponderance of evidence suggests that car drivers are principally at fault in about three-quarters (70-75%) of fatal car-truck crashes.”

ATA is a federation of 50 state associations and various American transport and trucking industry organizations, including the Trucking Association Executives Council, the American Transportation Research Institute, the Truckload Carriers Association and the National Tank Truck Carriers.

Citing a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), which looked at 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes, ATA said “car drivers were assigned factors in 81% of crashes versus 27% of truck drivers.”

The total adds up to more than 100% because some crashes assigned responsibility to both parties.

In its definition of truck, ATA include single-unit and articulated trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings of greater than 10,000 pounds (4,540 kg).

Cars were “the encroaching vehicle” in 89% of head-on crashes, 88% of opposite-direction sideswipes, 80% of rear-end crashes and 72% of same-direction sideswipes, ATA said of the fatal car-truck collisions studied by UMTRI.

In addition to the UMTRI data, the ATA report also cited the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the U.S. LTCCS involved investigations into 221 crashes from 2001 until 2003 and assigned “critical reasons” for crashes. The LTCCS compared the percentages of accidents for which specific “critical reasons” were assigned to truck drivers versus car drivers.

For example, 8% of truck drivers were found to be following too closely, compared to 1% of car drivers. However, 9% of car drivers were found to be asleep at the wheel, compared to 1% of truck drivers, ATA said of the LTCCS data, which also cited environmental factors associated with the crash.

“Such factors did not have to contribute to the crash, but were noted for their presence,” ATA stated in its report.

For example, in the crashes studied, 0.4 % of truck drivers were using illegal drugs while 7% of car drivers were. Nine per cent of car drivers had been using alcohol while 0.3% of truck drivers were.

Brake problems were present for 27% of trucks and 2% of cars, while tire problems were present in 3% of trucks and 6% of cars.  Driver fatigue was present for 7% of truck drivers and 15% of car drivers.