transportation activity has increased in recent years as has the total number
of freight transportation-related fatalities, reaching 5,653 in 2019—a 31.8 percent increase
over the 2010 total.Trucks accounted for 88.5 percent of all freight
transportation fatalities and 13.1 percent of all highway fatalities in 2019. The vast
majority of fatalities involve passenger travel on highways.
to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of total
highway fatalities in 2019 decreased by 1.5 percent over the 2018 level while large-truck occupant fatalities increased slightly by less than 1 percent from 890 in
2018 to 892 in 2019.
Fatality rates for highway and large truck occupants
1990 through 2019, the overall rate of highway fatalities per vehicle-miles of
travel (VMT) declined by nearly 46.8 percent as the highway modes showed across the board
reductions. Fatalities per VMT for large truck occupants decreased by 38.3 percent over the same
Injuries by freight transportation mode
transportation comprises a relatively small percentage of all
transportation-related injuries–4.6 percent in 2000 versus 5.9 percent in 2019. However, of the
freight-transportation injuries that do occur, the majority of them have been
attributable to the highway mode–ranging from 94.6 percent in 2000 to 97.8 percent in 2019.
Hazardous materials transportation incidents and property damage
Because most hazardous materials are transported by truck, the
majority of incidents related to the movement of hazardous materials occur on
highways or in truck terminals. A small share of hazardous materials
transportation incidents results from a vehicular crash or derailment (referred
to as “accident related”). While
0.9 percent of the
incidents in 2020 were accident related, they accounted for 75.7 percent of all property damage. Highway had
the highest share of incidents at 88.6 percent and accounted for 48.5 percent of all property damage.
Fleet composition of rail tank cars carrying Class 3 flammable liquids
Transportation of flammable liquids requires special equipment and
handling to reduce the risk of a spill or explosion that can cause human injury
and death, result in property damage, and impact the environment. New DOT
safety specifications require that rail tank cars (DOT-117 and DOT-117R) used
in transporting Class 3 flammable liquids include a layer of insulation or
thermal protection between the tank shell and the jacket to stabilize the
temperature of the liquid and reduce the conductivity of heat from outside
sources to the contents of the tank car. At the end of 2019, 47.5 percent of the 112,685 tank cars used to carry Class 3 flammable
liquids met the new safety requirements, a notable increase from the 1.7 percent in 2015. Of the tank cars meeting new safety requirements, 47.2 percent (25,300)
were new and 52.8 percent
retrofitted. By 2029, DOT expects all Class 3 flammable liquids will be
transported in rail tank cars that meet or exceed DOT specifications.
Commercial motor carrier compliance reviews by safety rating
As part of efforts to improve safety, federal and state governments
conducted 4,214 safety compliance reviews in 2020. Of that total, about 3.6 percent (151) of motor carriers that
were subject to the review received an unsatisfactory rating. If a carrier
receives a conditional rating, it means that there are conditions that need to
be met for the carrier’s operations to be in full compliance. Once the
conditions have been met, the carrier would need a new rate able review to get
the rating upgraded to satisfactory. An unsatisfactory rating implies that
there are serious deficiencies that need to be rectified within 45–60 days. If
rectified, the rating can be upgraded to a conditional or satisfactory rating.
If not, the provisional unsatisfactory rating becomes final and the carrier is placed
Activity summary of roadside safety inspections by motor carrier inspection type
About one-fifth of all roadside inspections of commercial vehicles
resulted in a vehicle being placed out-of-service (OOS) for a serious
violation. Notably lower percentages of driver and hazardous materials
inspections resulted in OOS orders. In 2020, 5.2 percent of driver inspections and 4.5 percent of hazardous
materials inspections resulted in OOS orders.
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Freight Facts and Figures (Washington, DC: 2019).
Freight Facts & Figures, developed by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, is a collection of charts and statistical tables about freight transportation in the United States. These visualizations provide a snapshot of freight movement; the extent, condition, and performance of the freight transportation system; the economic implications of freight movement; and the safety, energy, and environmental impacts of freight transportation.