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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2020

This online edition of Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts provides Excel files containing data for each of the report's data tables and graphs. A printable version of the complete report is also available.

Contents

Note: Data Revisions. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) implemented an enhanced methodology for estimating registered vehicles and vehicle miles traveled by vehicle type beginning with data from 2007. As a result, involvement rates may differ, and in some cases significantly, from earlier years.

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) retired the General Estimates System (GES) in 2017, replacing it with the Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS). CRSS builds on GES, beginning with data for 2016. Although the two systems are both samples of police-reported crashes involving all types of motor vehicles, CRSS includes a more efficient and flexible sample using updated traffic and demographic information. As a result, comparisons of 2016 (and later) CRSS estimates with older GES estimates should be performed with caution.

In 2019, NHTSA identified issues with the classification of some large trucks and light pickup truck body types in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This misclassification resulted in an understatement of large truck crashes through the years, and thus an inaccurate assessment of the change in large truck crashes from year to year. NHTSA revised Body Type to correspond to the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) indicated by the decoded VIN, and revised Motor Carrier Identification Number, GVWR/GCWR, Vehicle Configuration, and Cargo Body Type to correspond to the requirements of coding large truck body types. In all, 329 vehicles classified as light pickup trucks (included in passenger vehicle count) were reclassified in the FARS 2016 Amended Final file as large trucks. Due to this methodology change, comparisons of the 2016 (and later) FARS large truck data with prior years should be performed with caution.

Introduction

This annual edition of Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts contains descriptive statistics about fatal, injury, and property damage only crashes involving large trucks and buses in 2020. Selected crash statistics on passenger vehicles are also presented for comparison purposes.

Data Sources

The information in this report was compiled by the Analysis Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The major sources for the data are described below:

  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS): FARS, maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is a census of fatal crashes involving motor vehicles traveling on public trafficways. FARS is recognized as the most reliable national crash database, but it contains information only on fatal crashes. A large truck is defined in FARS as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds. A bus is defined in FARS as any motor vehicle designed primarily to transport nine or more persons, including the driver. The 2020 FARS data are considered preliminary for one year. This additional time provides the opportunity for submission of important variable data requiring outside sources, which may lead to changes in the final counts. The updated final counts for 2018 and 2019 are reflected in this report. Updated final counts for 2020 will be reflected in the 2021 annual report. For more information on FARS, go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/research-data/fatality-analysis-reporting-system-fars. Beginning with data for 2016, NHTSA implemented changes to revise vehicle classifications based on GVWR, which reclassified 329 light pickup trucks (included in passenger vehicle count) as large trucks. Due to this methodology change, comparisons of the 2016 (and later) FARS large truck data with prior years should be performed with caution. 

  • General Estimates System (GES): GES, also maintained by NHTSA, is a probability-based nationally representative sample of police-reported fatal, injury, and property damage only crashes. The data from GES yield national estimates, calculated using a weighting procedure, but cannot give State-level estimates. Because GES is a sample of motor vehicle crashes, the results generated are estimates rounded to the nearest one thousand; however, associated percentages and rates are based on the unrounded data. The GES definitions of a large truck and a bus are the same as the FARS definitions. In 2017, NHTSA retired GES and replaced it with the Crash Report Sampling System. As a result, comparisons of 2015 (and earlier) GES estimates with newer Crash Report Sampling System estimates should be performed with caution. For more information on GES, go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/research-data/national-automotive-sampling-system-nass.

  • Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS): NHTSA’s newly established CRSS builds on GES, beginning with data for 2016. Although the two systems are both samples of police-reported crashes involving all types of motor vehicles, CRSS includes a more efficient and flexible sample using updated traffic and demographic information. As a result, comparisons of 2016 (and later) CRSS estimates with older GES estimates should be performed with caution. To learn more about CRSS, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/national-center-statistics-and-analysis-ncsa/crash-report-sampling-system-crss#crash-report-sampling-system-crss-data-files.

  • Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) Crash File: The MCMIS Crash File, maintained by FMCSA, contains data on trucks and buses in crashes that meet the SAFETYNET recommended threshold. A SAFETYNET reportable crash must involve a truck, used for commercial purposes, with a GVWR or gross combination weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds; a commercial bus designed to transport nine or more persons, including the driver; or any vehicle carrying hazardous material that requires placarding, regardless of the vehicle’s weight. The crash must result in at least one fatality, at least one injury involving immediate medical attention away from the crash scene, or at least one vehicle disabled as a result of the crash and transported away from the crash scene. The crashes are reported by the States to FMCSA through the SAFETYNET computer software. The MCMIS Crash File is intended to be a census of trucks and buses involved in fatal, injury, and towaway crashes; however, some States do not report all FMCSA-eligible crashes, and some report more than those that are eligible. FMCSA continues to work with the States to improve data quality and reporting of eligible large truck and bus crashes to the MCMIS crash file.

FARS, GES, CRSS, and MCMIS describe the events and details of motor vehicle crashes, but they do not include data on crash causation or fault.

  • Highway Statistics: Highway Statistics is an annual publication of the Office of Highway Policy Information of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). State agencies report the data, ranging from driver licensing to highway finance, and FHWA aggregates them to get national totals. This report takes vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and vehicle registrations from Table VM-1 of Highway Statistics, “Annual Vehicle Distance Traveled in Miles and Related Data.” Readers are warned to be careful of crash rate data based on the VMT numbers from FHWA. Beginning with data for 2007, FHWA implemented an enhanced methodology for estimating registered vehicles and VMT by vehicle type. The new methodology did not change the total VMT, but it did make a large difference in the number of miles traveled attributed to large trucks and buses. As a result, it would be misleading to cite large truck and bus data trends that encompassed both the years before 2007 and the years following. For more information on VMT data, go to www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2020.

Organization of the Report

The report is organized into four chapters: Trends, Crashes, Vehicles, and People. The Trends chapter shows data for 2020 in the context of available historical data for past years. In the other chapters, the 2020 data are shown in different ways, according to what is being counted. Three-year trends in fatal crashes are presented for historical perspective when appropriate. The Crashes chapter counts numbers of crashes; the Vehicles chapter counts vehicles in crashes; and the People chapter counts persons of all types involved in crashes. Four different types of counts are shown:

  • Crashes: Numbers of crashes involving various vehicle types.
  • Vehicles in Crashes: Numbers of vehicles involved in crashes. These counts may be larger than the number of crashes (fatal, injury, or property damage only), because more than one vehicle may be involved in a single crash.
  • People in Crashes: Numbers of people killed or injured in crashes. These counts generally are larger than the number of crashes (fatal or injury), because more than one person may be killed or injured in a single crash. People killed or injured may be occupants of a large truck or bus, occupants of another vehicle, or nonmotorists (pedestrians or pedalcyclists).
  • Drivers in Crashes: Numbers of vehicle drivers involved in crashes. These counts generally are equal to the numbers of vehicles involved in crashes.

Trends

The tables in this chapter present crash statistics for large trucks and buses over time. Fatal crash statistics generally are available from 1975, the first year of FARS data, through 2020. In some cases, such as for alcohol involvement, data are available only from 1981 or 1982 through 2020. Nonfatal crash statistics are presented for 2000 through 2020. From 2000 through 2015, they are based on GES data, but starting with 2016, they are based on the new CRSS data. Although the two systems are both samples of police-reported crashes involving all types of motor vehicles, CRSS includes a more efficient and flexible sample using updated traffic and demographic information. As a result, comparisons of 2016 (and later) CRSS estimates with older GES estimates should be performed with caution. The statistics shown in this chapter represent crashes, vehicles, drivers, fatalities, and injuries in crashes. Below is a summary of some of the trend information in this section:

  • In 2020, 4,998 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 5-percent decrease from 2019. From 2019 to 2020, large truck and bus fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by all motor vehicles increased from 0.162 to 0.177, 14 percent below the 21st-century peak of 0.205 in 2000.
  • There was a 34-percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2005 and 2009, followed by an increase of 31 percent between 2010 and 2020. From 2019 to 2020, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses decreased by 3 percent.
  • The number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses decreased steadily from 102,000 in 2002 to 60,000 in 2009 (a decline of 41 percent). From 2009 to 2015, injury crashes increased 62 percent to 97,000 (based on GES data). From 2016 to 2020, according to NHTSA's CRSS data, large truck and bus injury crashes decreased 4 percent (from 112,000 in 2016 to 108,000 in 2020).
  • On average, from 2010 to 2020, intercity buses accounted for 11 percent, and school buses and transit buses accounted for 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of all buses involved in fatal crashes.
  • In 2020, there were 46 school buses, 9 intercity buses, and 86 transit buses involved in fatal crashes, all of which were the among the lowest numbers recorded since FARS began in 1975.
  • Over the past year (from 2019 to 2020):
    • The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes decreased 4 percent, from 5,033 to 4,842, and the large truck involvement rate (large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks) decreased 4 percent, from 1.68 to 1.60.
    • The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by 10 percent, from 119,000 to 107,000.
    • The number of large trucks involved in property damage only crashes decreased 21 percent, from 414,000 to 327,000.
    • The number of buses involved in fatal crashes declined from 235 to 156.

Detailed List of Tables and Figures from the Trends Chapter:

Crashes

This chapter contains information on the circumstances of large truck crashes. Below is a summary of some of the information on crashes in 2020 in this section:

  • Of the approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2020, there were 4,444 (1 percent) fatal crashes and 101,000 (24 percent) injury crashes.
  • Single-vehicle crashes (including crashes that involved a bicyclist, pedestrian, nonmotorized vehicle, etc.) made up 22 percent of all fatal crashes, 16 percent of all injury crashes, and 24 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks in 2020. The majority (62 percent) of fatal large truck crashes involved two vehicles.
  • Fatal crashes involving large trucks often occur in rural areas and on Interstate highways. Approximately 54 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred in rural areas, 27 percent occurred on Interstate highways, and 13 percent fell into both categories by occurring on rural Interstate highways.
  • Thirty-seven percent of all fatal crashes, 24 percent of all injury crashes, and 20 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am).
  • The vast majority of fatal crashes (82 percent) and nonfatal crashes (87 percent) involving large trucks occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
  • Collision with a vehicle in transport was the first harmful event (the first event during a crash that resulted in injury or property damage) in 72 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks, 81 percent of injury crashes involving large trucks, and 74 percent of property damage only crashes involving large trucks.
  • Overturn (rollover) was the first harmful event in 4 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks and 2 percent of all nonfatal crashes involving large trucks.
  • In 2020, 26 percent of work zone fatal crashes and 15 percent of work zone injury crashes involved at least one large truck.
  • There were 13.49 fatal large truck crashes per million people in the United States in 2020, a 27-percent increase from 10.6 in 2010.
  • In 2020, on average, there were 1.12 fatalities in fatal crashes involving large trucks. In 90 percent of those crashes, there was only one fatality. The majority, 83 percent, of fatalities were not occupants of the large truck.

Detailed List of Tables from the Crashes Chapter:

Vehicles

This chapter presents information on large trucks involved in fatal, injury, and property damage only crashes. Some of the data in this chapter come from the MCMIS Crash File, which contains data on trucks and buses in crashes that meet the SAFETYNET crash severity thresholds. MCMIS data are used for the tables on crashes by vehicle configuration (Vehicles Table 2), cargo body type (Vehicles Table 4), gross vehicle weight rating (Vehicles Table 6), hazardous materials cargo (Vehicles Table 9), and hazardous materials released (Vehicles Table 11). SAFETYNET nonfatal crashes tend to be more serious than GES and CRSS nonfatal crashes, because the SAFETYNET threshold requires at least one injury involving immediate medical attention away from the crash scene, or at least one vehicle disabled as a result of the crash and transported away from the crash scene. Below is a summary of some of the information on vehicles in crashes in 2020 in this section:

  • In 2020, 4,842 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. According to MCMIS, 45,900 large trucks were involved in injury crashes, and 86,618 were involved in towaway crashes.
  • Hazardous materials (HM) cargo was present on 2 percent of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes and 2 percent of those in injury and towaway crashes. HM was released from the cargo compartments of 20 percent of the placarded trucks in these crashes. Flammable liquids (gasoline, fuel oil, etc.) accounted for 68 percent of the HM releases from cargo compartments in fatal crashes and 51 percent of the HM releases in injury and towaway crashes.
  • "Collision with vehicle in transport" was recorded as the most harmful event for 73 percent of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes and for 75 percent of the large trucks involved in nonfatal crashes.
  • The critical precrash event for 63 percent of the large trucks in fatal crashes was another vehicle, person, animal, or object in the large truck’s lane or encroaching into it. Twenty-three percent of the large trucks in fatal crashes had critical precrash events of their own movement or loss of control.
  • Singles (truck tractors pulling a single semi-trailer) accounted for 53 percent of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2020; doubles (tractors pulling two trailers) made up 3 percent of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes; and triples (tractors pulling three trailers) accounted for less than 0.1 percent of all large trucks involved in fatal crashes.
  • Vehicle-related factors were coded for 4 percent of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes and 3 percent of the passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes. "Other Working Vehicle" and "Tires" were the most common vehicle-related factors for large trucks in fatal crashes, at 1 percent each. "Tires" was the most frequently coded vehicle-related factor for passenger vehicles in fatal crashes, at 1 percent.
  • From 2018 to 2020:
    • The number of large trucks in fatal crashes weighing 10,001 to 14,000 pounds increased 14 percent, from 635 to 724.
    • The number of medium/heavy pickup trucks in fatal crashes increased 19 percent, from 405 to 481.
    • The number of large trucks with no issuing authority in fatal crashes increased 11 percent, from 740 to 819.

Detailed List of Tables from the Vehicles Chapter:

People

This chapter contains information on drivers of large trucks and buses in fatal, injury, and property damage only crashes and on people killed or injured in large truck crashes. Some statistics for passenger vehicle drivers are also listed to allow comparisons. It is important to note that the number of large truck or bus drivers in crashes is not exactly equal to the number of large trucks or buses in crashes, because some vehicles did not have drivers at the time of their crash. Below is a summary of some of the information in this section:

  • Of the 4,778 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2020, 312 (7 percent) were 25 years of age or younger, and 294 (6 percent) were 66 years of age or older. In comparison, 2 (1 percent) of the 155 drivers of buses in fatal crashes were 25 years of age or younger, and 20 (13 percent) were 66 years of age or older.
  • In 2020, 14 percent (826) of large truck occupants in fatal crashes were not wearing a safety belt, of which 356 (43 percent) were killed in the crash. In contrast, only 349 (8 percent) of the 4,526 large truck occupants wearing safety belts in fatal crashes were killed. Eleven percent of the 4,778 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes (533) were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.
  • In 2020, 299 of the 4,778 large truck drivers in fatal crashes (6 percent) tested positive for at least one drug, although 57 percent of them were not tested. Conversely, 9,149 of the 53,892 drivers of all vehicles in fatal crashes (17 percent) tested positive for at least one drug, although 43 percent of them were not tested. A driver is more likely to be tested for drugs if there is information from the crash indicating that drugs may have been a factor.
  • In 2020, at least one driver-related factor was recorded for 32 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes, compared to 55 percent of the passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes. “Speeding of Any Kind” was the most frequent driver-related factor for drivers of both vehicle types; “Impairment (Fatigue, Alcohol, Illness, etc.)” was the second most common for both vehicle types.
  • There were 831 large truck occupant fatalities in 2020, a decrease of 7 percent from the 893 fatalities in 2019. In 2020, 87 percent of these occupant fatalities were drivers of large trucks, and 13 percent were passengers in large trucks.

Detailed List of Tables from the People Chapter:

Last updated: Thursday, October 20, 2022