Severity & Frequency of Truck Accidents is on the Rise

Commercial trucking often serves as a trusted barometer for the U.S. economy. In 2020, America’s truckers carried 10.23 billion tons of freight and generated $732.3 billion in revenue (source 1).


However, with trucks responsible for carrying 72.5% of the nation’s cargo, there are more trucks on the road than ever before.1 With more trucks on the highways, the frequency of accidents has also risen, including an increase in fatalities. In 2021, there were a total of 5,601 deaths involving truck accidents on U.S. roads, compared to a total of 4,965 in 2020, an increase of 13%.2 According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 13.65 fatal large truck crashes per million people in the United States in 2019, a 29% increase since 2010, despite newer technology and the best efforts of regulators.3 Furthermore, the number of people who died in large truck crashes in 2020 was also 28% higher than in 2009, when rates were at their lowest since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.7

The FMCSA reports that the average cost of a commercial truck accident in which one person is injured is $148,279.  However, the costs associated with a fatal trucking accident skyrockets to $7.2 million, with the numbers growing exponentially if multiple people are injured.4 In addition, it should be noted that these numbers don’t account for the rising cost of truck repair and liability claims. With the frequency of accidents increasing, claim costs are almost twice as likely to exceed $100,000.6

Of the 4,014 deaths involving a truck in 2020,  Were Occupants of Cars and Other Passenger Vehicles Were Truck Occupants Were Pedestrians, Bicyclists, or Motorcyclists (source 7).

On the surface, the primary reason for the greater severity of truck accidents can be attributed to the weight discrepancy between trucks and passenger cars. Trucks usually weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars.7 They’re also taller with greater ground clearance, resulting in the smaller vehicles under-riding trucks in accidents. Truck braking capabilities are also an issue. A loaded tractor-trailer takes 20% to 40% more distance to stop than a passenger car.7 And, this discrepancy only grows on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes. In addition, many older $50,000 trucks are now being replaced with new $150,000 trucks that cost much more to repair.6


Controlling losses is a big challenge for the trucking industry, especially with driver fatigue becoming a big issue. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours of service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch. However, surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulation and work longer than permitted.7 In December 2017, the long-awaited FMCSA rule requiring trucks to have Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) that accurately track and manage a vehicle’s record of hours of service went into effect. The ELD device is designed to automatically record driving time, enabling motor carriers to better comply with federal limits for safe driving. Around the same time, the American Automobile Association Foundation (AAA Foundation) and the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (the Trucking Alliance) joined forces to adopt the AAA Foundation’s new Truck Safety Recommendations, including various warning, monitoring, and braking systems that could prevent as many as 77,000 crashes and save up to 500 lives annually. Both experienced and new drivers report wanting “all the bells and whistles” offered by new equipment not only to improve personal comfort, but to take advantage of innovative safety technology as well.

Recent Trucking Claims

In 2019, a jury required a trucking company to pay $27 million in damages to the family of an Idaho woman killed in 2016 when she was hit head-on by a semi as she came around a bend.9 In July 2018, a Texas jury handed down a $101 million award against an oil services company whose driver plowed into the back of a pickup in 2013. The truck driver tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana after the collision. 9

A Louisiana jury awarded $16 million to the family of an 89-year-old man in September 2021 after he was killed in a 2020 wreck with an 18-wheeler. The jury found that the truck driver and trucking company were 80% at fault after the driver made a U-turn into the path of the man’s vehicle.10 A Connecticut jury awarded $15 million to a Pennsylvania man in May 2019 after he was rear- ended by an 80,000-lb semi in 2014. News reports indicate, the semi-truck driver didn’t realize traffic was stopped until it was too late. He swerved to avoid a collision but slammed into the back of the man’s car.9

A Texas jury awarded $5 million in actual damages and $75 million in punitive damages in May 2019 to a truck driver who said the company he worked for forced him to alter his logbook and exceed federal hours of service rules in 2015. The driver ultimately fell asleep behind the wheel and was severely injured when he plowed into another tractor-trailer. 9 In February 2018, a California jury granted $52.84 million to two brothers who suffered traumatic brain, back, and limb injuries when they were hit head-on by a semi-truck that crossed the center line in 2014.9       In October 2021, a California jury awarded $7.619 million to the family of a man who died from injuries sustained in a collision between his pickup truck and a tractor-trailer that had stopped in the middle of a Washington state while attempting to make an unsafe left turn.11 An Illinois jury handed down a $43.5 million award in August 2021 to a nurse who suffered severe injuries when a semi-truck rear-ended her vehicle while she was waiting at a stoplight in 2016.12 A Texas jury returned a $30 million verdict against a freight carrier in October 2021 after the company’s driver veered into on-coming traffic and killed the driver of another vehicle in a head on collision.13 An Indiana trucking company was hit with a $26.5 million jury award in 2019 after an Oregon jury found that the driver had been driving aggressively on U.S. Highway 20, causing a fatal crash that killed one and severely injured another.14


The trucking industry’s problems are compounded by the fact that the average truck driver is generally approaching 50 years of age or older.8 As the average age of drivers increases, trucking companies are struggling to attract new drivers, leading some companies to consider easing their hiring requirements to entice new employees – including dropping commercial driving experience requirements down to as little as 1-year or less. According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry was short 80,000 drivers in 2021, a record deficit that could reach 160,000 by 2030. As older drivers retire, 1 million new drivers will be needed over the next decade to keep pace with economic growth.5

Anecdotally, the chronic driver shortage is considered a leading cause of the general erosion of driver safety, but gathering the data to support that theory is easier said than done. Most carriers don’t have the level of claim detail built into their claims systems needed to actuarially confirm that the age and experience of drivers makes a meaningful difference. However, numerous insurers are now asking deeper questions around driver experience. Many trucking firms are also beginning to invest in better training for new and existing drivers around safety technology, recognizing that adequate training can make all the difference.

CRC Group has the proprietary data technology to analyze what’s happening in the trucking industry and help weigh the unique risks facing insureds. Contact your CRC Group Producer to learn more about how we can help your commercial transportation clients. 


  1. Economics & Industry Data, American Trucking Associations.
  2. Feds Record 13% Increase in Trucking Accident Deaths in 2021, Georgia Injury Law Blog, June 4, 2022. 2021/#:~:text=There%20were%20 a%20total%20of,and%20October%20of%20last%20year
  3. Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2019, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2019
  4. 4 Ways GPS Tracking Cameras can Reduce the High Cost of a Truck Accident, HD Fleet, November 15, 2018.
  5. Why Driving Big Rig Trucks is a Job Fewer Americans Dream About Doing, CNBC, July 5, 2022.,drivers%20over%20the%20 next%20decade
  6. 2018: A Challenging Year for Trucking, Donald Jerrell.
  7. Fatality Facts 2020: Large Trucks, IIHS.
  8. The Ultimate List of Driving Statistics for 2022.
  9. Truck Accident Lawsuits, Consumer Notice.
  10. Jury Awards Millions in Deadly Semi Wreck, The Trucker, September 29, 2021.
  11. $7.619 Million Verdict Handed Down By Los Angeles Jury In Wrongful Death, Tractor Trailer Accident Lawsuit, Yahoo, October 12, 2021.
  12. Cook County Jury Awards 43.5 Million Dollars to Nurse in Truck Accident Lawsuit, Law Firm News Wire, August 27, 2021.,Cook%20County%20Jury%20Awards%2043.5%20Million%20 Dollars%20to%20Nurse%20in,truck%20accident%20five%20years%20ago
  13. Harris County Jury Returns $30 Million Verdict Against FedEx Freight in Deadly Crash Case, KPRC2, October 21, 2021. freight-in-deadly-crash-case/