Pennsylvania Truck Accident Statistics

Large trucks are involved in more than 6,000 crashes each year on Pennsylvania roads. While some low-speed collisions only cause property damage, large trucks account for thousands of injury accidents and a disproportionate share of fatal crashes.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation classifies traffic accidents by vehicle type. For statistical purposes, the DOT classifies a truck as “light” or “heavy.” Pickup trucks and tow trucks are examples of light trucks. Heavy trucks include cement trucks, large delivery trucks, and tractor-trailers.

The trucking industry generally distinguishes “large” trucks (those weighing more than 10,000 pounds when loaded with cargo) from “heavy” trucks (those weighing more than 26,000 pounds when loaded). An average tractor-trailer (also known as a semi, an 18-wheeler, or a big rig) weighs about 35,000 pounds with no cargo. Most tractor-trailers are authorized to operate with a total weight of 80,000 pounds, so a 35,000-pound semi can carry 45,000 pounds of cargo.

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    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania

    Truck Accident Injuries and Deaths

    Heavy trucks are involved in 5% of Pennsylvania traffic accidents that cause injuries. In 2017, 2,860 people were injured in a collision with a heavy truck. Not surprisingly, truck drivers and their passengers were rarely the victims of those injuries. Occupants of smaller vehicles, as well as motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, are much more likely than truck occupants to be injured in a crash.

    While trucks were involved in only 5% of injury accidents, they accounted for 13.4% of fatal crashes. Crashes between two cars have become more survivable over the years, thanks to airbags and crumple zones that absorb the force of head-on collisions. Those safety measures are defeated by the forces generated by a large truck moving at highway speeds.

    The laws of physics dictate that a crash involving a massive vehicle is more likely to be deadly than crashes with lighter vehicles. More than 97% of the victims who die in a crash with a heavy truck are occupants of a smaller vehicle.

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    Facts About Pa Truck Accidents

    Just over half of all Pennsylvania two-vehicle truck crashes involve passenger cars. Most of the other crash victims are occupants of SUVs, vans, pickup trucks, busses, motorcycles, or other large trucks.

    Pedestrians are the victims of 7% to 8% of fatal large truck crashes. Bicyclists are the victims of another 2% of fatal crashes involving large trucks.

    About 35% of Pennsylvania truck crashes occur on interstate highways or the Pennsylvania Turnpike, while 55% occur on other highways. The other 10% occur on local roads. Fatal accidents usually occur on interstate highways or the Turnpike, where high speeds reduce a driver’s likelihood of surviving a crash. Only 37% of fatal crashes occurred on other highways, while no truck crashes on local roads caused a death in 2017.

    Not surprisingly, high speeds correlate with fatal truck accidents. About three-quarters of all fatal large truck accidents in 2017 occurred at speeds of 50 mph or faster. The average speed of a truck involved in a fatal accident was 55 mph.

    Most fatal truck accidents occur between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., although about 10% of deadly accidents occur between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Another 10% occur between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Crashes on weekdays are more common than crashes on weekends.

    About a quarter of fatal truck accidents occur in intersections or are classified as intersection-related. Most trucks that crash are in a roadway, as opposed to an intersection, exit or entrance ramp, railway crossing, shoulder, or median.

    Only about 5% of truck accidents are caused by equipment failure. Faulty tires and brakes are the most common equipment-related causes of truck crashes.

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    Pennsylvania Truck Accident Trends

    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania

    According to the Pennsylvania DOT, the state recorded 145 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks in 2017. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports a larger number (157) of fatal crashes in Pennsylvania involving large trucks. The different statistics may result from different data collection methods or differences in the classification of a truck as “large” or “heavy.”

    Statistics that record the number of fatal crashes, however, do not tell the whole story. Some crashes produce multiple fatalities. The NHTSA’s data reveals that 167 deaths resulted from large truck crashes in Pennsylvania during 2017. The Pennsylvania DOT and NHTSA agree that 2017 saw the largest recorded death toll from truck accidents since 2008.

    The Pennsylvania experience is consistent with nationwide trends. More deaths in the United States were caused by large truck accidents in 2017 than in any year since 2007. The death toll fell dramatically in 2009, both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The national death toll increased each year from 2010 to 2012, remained relatively steady through 2014, and has increased significantly in each of the following years.

    Truck Accident Insurance Coverage

    All drivers in Pennsylvania are required to carry liability insurance. Notwithstanding that law, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that 7.6% of Pennsylvania drivers are uninsured. That statistic compares favorably to the national average of 13%, but favorable statistics provide no comfort to the victim of a collision caused by an uninsured driver.

    Commercial truckers, on the other hand, must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) before they are authorized to operate their vehicles. Proving that vehicles are insured is a condition of registration. For that reason, very few commercial truckers are uninsured.
    The FMCSA requires commercial truckers to carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance. Trucks that transport certain hazardous materials and vehicles that carry more than 15 passengers must have $5 million in liability coverage.

    Helping Pa Truck Accident Victims

    Statistics only tell part of the story. Every injury accident causes unique harms to individuals that cannot be captured by statistics.

    If you were injured or if a family member died in a Pennsylvania truck accident, you have our sympathy. To learn about your rights as the victim of a collision with a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx or ask us a question by using our contact form.

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