Truck Safety:

Motor Carriers Office's Activities to Reduce Fatalities Are Likely to Have Little Short-term Effect

T-RCED-99-89: Published: Feb 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1999.

Additional Materials:


John H. Anderson, Jr
(202) 512-8024


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the safety of large commercial trucks on the nation's highways, focusing on: (1) trends in crashes involving large trucks; (2) factors that contribute to such crashes; and (3) the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety's (OMCHS) activities to improve the safety of large trucks.

GAO noted that: (1) of the nearly 42,000 people who died on the nation's highways in 1997, about 5,400 died from crashes involving large trucks; (2) this represents a 20 percent increase from 1992; (3) at the same time, the annual number of miles traveled by large trucks increased by a similar proportion; (4) if this trend of increasing truck travel continues, the number of fatalities could increase to 5,800 in 1999 and to more than 6,000 in 2000; (5) while trucks are involved in fewer crashes per mile traveled than are cars, crashes involving trucks are more likely to result in a fatality; (6) in 1997, 98 percent of the fatalities from crashes between trucks and cars were the occupants of the car; (7) although no definitive information on the causes of crashes involving large trucks exists, several factors contribute to these crashes; (8) these contributing factors include errors on the part of car and truck drivers, truck driver fatigue, and vehicle defects; (9) of these factors, errors on the part of car drivers are cited most frequently as contributing to crashes involving large trucks; (10) specifically, errors by car drivers were reported in 80 percent of the crashes, while truck drivers errors were reported in 28 percent of the crashes; (11) while many factors outside OMCHS' authority--such as the use of safety belts by car occupants and states' actions--influence the number of fatalities that result from crashes involving large trucks, the Federal Highway Administration has established a goal for 1999 of reducing these fatalities; (12) its goal is to reduce the number of fatalities to below the 1996 level of 5,126--substantially less than the projected figure of 5,800; (13) OMCHS has undertaken a number of activities intended to achieve this goal, such as identifying high-risk carriers for safety improvements and educating car drivers about how to share the road with large trucks; and (14) however, OMCHS is unlikely to reach the goal because: (a) its initiative to target high-risk carriers for safety improvements depends on data that are not complete, accurate, or timely; (b) several activities will not be completed before the end of 1999; and (c) the effectiveness of OMCHS' educational campaign to improve car drivers' behavior is unknown.

Sep 8, 2020

Aug 20, 2020

Aug 18, 2020

Aug 10, 2020

Jul 27, 2020

Jul 16, 2020

Jun 23, 2020

Apr 30, 2020

Apr 29, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here