Large Trucks

In 2020, 4,965 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks.  Fatalities involving large truck crashes have increased almost 45 percent since 2009 when such fatalities were at their lowest reported level.  Additionally, 146,930 people were injured in crashes involving a large truck in 2020.

Large Truck Safety Facts

  • Annual truck crash fatalities are equivalent to a major airplane crash every other week of the year.
  • The cost to society from crashes involving commercial motor vehicles was estimated to be $143 billion in 2018.
  • A January 2018 public opinion poll conducted by Harper Polling found that seven out of 10 respondents oppose longer and heavier trucks.  A 2015 poll conducted by ORC International found that 77 percent of respondents oppose oversized double trailer trucks on our Nation’s roads and highways.  Moreover, 79 percent of respondents are very or somewhat convinced that heavier and longer trucks will lead to more braking problems and longer stopping distances, causing an increase in the number of crashes involving trucks.
  • Tractor-trailers moving at 60 mph are required to stop in 310 feet – the length of a football field – once the brakes are applied.  Actual stopping distances are often much longer due to driver response time before braking and the common problem that truck brakes are often not in top working condition.
  • In 2020, violations related to tires and/or brakes accounted for 10 of the top 20 most common vehicle out-of-service (OOS) violations.
  • More than one in every five trucks that is inspected is placed out of service for vehicle deficiencies that prevent it from continuing to operate.
  • In fatal two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger motor vehicle, 97 percent of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle.
  • Overweight trucks disproportionately damage our badly deteriorated roads and bridges.  An 18,000 pound truck axle does over 3,000 times more damage to pavement than a typical passenger vehicle axle.
  • The Nation’s roads continue to receive a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers which noted that 20 percent of the nation’s highways alone had poor pavement conditions in 2014.  This does not include those highways with mediocre conditions and all other non-highway roads.  In 2016, one in 11 of the Nation’s nearly 615,000 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory were structurally deficient.  The Federal Highway Administration estimates that $142 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis over the next 20 years to significantly improve conditions and performance.
  • Increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 10 percent increases bridge damage by 33 percent.  Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimated that the investment backlog for bridges, to address all cost-beneficial bridge needs, is $125.4 billion.  The U.S. would need to increase annual funding for bridges by 29 percent over current spending levels to eliminate the bridge backlog by 2034.
  • The U.S. taxpayer unfairly subsidizes bigger, heavier trucks:

→ According to the FHWA, a truck weighing over 80,000 pounds only pays between 40 and 50 percent of its cost responsibility.

→ The 2007 Transportation for Tomorrow report, mandated by Congress, confirmed that heavy trucks were underpaying their fair share for highway use, that user fee fairness could be achieved through weight-distance taxes, that heavy trucks should pay an infrastructure damage fee, and that the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax—which only contributes $1 billion annually to the Highway Trust Fund—had not been changed since the early 1980s.

  • Deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure has severe effects on America’s economy.  The ASCE estimates that poor surface transportation infrastructure will cost 726,000 jobs and $2.8 trillion in lower GDP growth by the year 2040.  Further, the direct economic costs on American households would amount to $217 billion by 2039.
  • Research and experience show that allowing bigger, heavier trucks will not result in fewer trucks:

→ Since 1982, when Congress last increased the gross vehicle weight limit, truck registrations have more than doubled.

→ Increases in truck size and weights over more than 35 years have never resulted in fewer heavier trucks on the roads.

  • Heavy trucks and buses account for 19 percent of our nation’s transportation energy use.  Trucks with heavier gross weights require larger engines that decrease fuel economy on a miles-per-gallon basis.
  • Technical reports released in June 2015 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (DOT Study) concluded there is a “profound” lack of data from which to quantify the safety impact of larger or heavier trucks and consequently recommended that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations be considered until data limitations are overcome.

For a full list of citations, please download our Large Truck Fact Sheet.