Crash Stats Skewed Against Big Trucks

ATLANTA, GA — The number of heavy-duty truck crashes in the U.S. decreased by a factor of about 24 percent between 2000 and 2010.

But medium-duty truck crashes have actually gone up by an astonishing 34 percent in the same period*.

That is the surprising result of a study released this week by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). 

It’s the first truck-crash frequency study to distinguish between heavy- and medium-duty statistics.

Prior to this study, truck-crash statistics blended all size of trucks and thereby led to inaccurately reasoned regulations.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) president Bill Graves,  “this research also points out that blending medium-duty crash statistics with heavy-duty crash statistics may unfairly drag down the safety gains made by heavy-duty truck fleets.

“When it comes to truck safety, clearly one-size solutions do not fit all scenarios.”

The ATRI study suggests that the reasons for the higher number of medium duty crashes include increased urbanization as well as the fact that in some jurisdictions, drivers of medium-duty trucks don’t need special training or licensing.

And what does this all mean?

For one it means that the general population probably has an inaccurate sense of how many heavy-duty trucks are involved in accidents.

But moreover, as ATRI states, it means policymakers could use the new data to streamline safety-related regulations as they apply to heavy and medium-duty trucks.

“As a result,” the ATRI study states, “large truck crash statistics understate the safety improvements realized by the heavy-duty truck population over the 10-year analysis period. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, declines in medium-duty truck safety are concealed.

“In summary, increases in medium-duty truck crash rates are camouflaged by the improvement of overall large-truck crash statistics. This, in turn, may result in researchers and policy makers overlooking certain truck populations for crash-reduction opportunities.”

A copy of this report is available from ATRI at

*(The qualifying “factor” and “ish” refer to the ATRI’s complicated methodology used to examine medium-duty and heavy-duty crash trends based on a crash-rate index [CRI]. The CRI, which explored each group’s crash trends compared to a baseline.) 

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