New devices are reducing the risks of the road with sensors that check blind spots, alert drivers if they stray from their lane without signaling a turn and tell vehicles to brake before an imminent collision.

The Reality of Accidents

From 2018 to 2022, the number of deadly vehicle accidents in the US rose from 36,835 to 42,795, or more than 16% in four years.1

It's not surprising that occupants in smaller vehicles account for 72% of deaths in fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers,2 given that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds,3 and the average mid-size car weighs between 2,500 and 4,200 pounds.4

Perhaps it's also unsurprising that the trucking industry has seen some serious nuclear verdicts — cases that awards more than $10 million. Nuclear verdicts often involve litigation with injury and death.

Between 2006 and 2011, only 26 cases out of 600 were awarded over $1 million.5 The verdict size dramatically increased in 2021, when a Florida jury awarded a landmark $1 billion verdict against two trucking companies in a wrongful death case:6

  • In 2017, a driver with AJD was using his cell phone, driving without an appropriate commercial driver's license and over the limit of legal driving hours when he flipped his semi-truck, causing a major traffic jam on the highway.
  • An hour later, a driver with Kahkashan Transportation was using cruise control when he slammed into stopped traffic. The driver didn't brake until one second before impact, according to his truck's recorder.

Technologies to Make Trucking Safer

In the trucking industry, equipping large trucks with advanced safety technologies has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 truck related crashes each year, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.7

Cameras on the Road

Cameras on vehicles are slowly changing the transportation industry.

Tesla, BMW, Subaru, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Toyota have integrated dash cams into their vehicles. These cameras can provide evidence if there's an accident and can lower insurance rates. Even if a carrier doesn't offer a specific discount for installing a dash cam, the footage captured by dash cams can be extremely helpful in settling claims.

Both new and existing semi-trucks can be equipped with lane departure warning and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems.

Driver-facing cameras (DFC) can be on all the time or can be triggered to record after a sudden swerve or braking. Some are activated by bumps in the road or a driver taking their hands off the wheel.

While driver approval for DFC is generally low, it increased by 87% when carriers used video footage for specific proactive safety measures including preventive safety programs, new driver training and ongoing driver coaching.

A handful of insurers offer DFC hardware price or installation discount or even premium discounts.

Automatic Emergency Breaking

Equipping semi-trucks with automatic braking or air disc brakes could also make roads safer, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The government agrees. As of June 2023, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required automatic emergency braking systems for trucks within five years.8

Trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds will have three years to comply. Vehicles weighing between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds have until 2028.

The rule is estimated to prevent nearly 20,000 crashes and save at least 155 lives per year.

It doesn't just apply to trucks. All new passenger cars and light trucks must include automatic emergency braking as well as meet other safety standards within three years.

Technology and Assigning Fault

Not only are new technologies making roads safer, but they're also helping insurance companies and litigators alike to streamline the process of determining fault after an accident occurs.

A 2023 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute found that in 64% of claims involving trucks with rear-facing cameras (RFCs) the commercial truck drivers wasn't at fault; the driver was at fault in 29% of claims.9

Similarly, in claims involving trucks with DFCs, the camera footage shows that commercial truck drivers aren't at fault more often than they're negligent.

Learn more about what's next for the Transportation market in the RPS 2023 Transportation Market Outlook.



1Moore, Timothy and Heidi Gollub, "Fatal Car Crash Statistics 2023," USA Today, 2 Nov 2023.

2"Large Trucks," NSC Injury Facts, accessed 7 Nov 2023.

3Hawley, Dustin. "How Much Does a Semi Truck Weigh?" J.D. Power, 4 Feb 2021.

4Hawley, Dustin. "Average Weight of a Car," J.D. Power, 11 Dec 2022.

5Murray, Dan. "New Research Documents the Scale of Nuclear Verdicts in the Trucking Industry," American Transportation Research Institute, 23 Jun 2020.

6Jarrow, James. "Transportation Law Blog," Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, 11 Jan 2022.

7Gross, Andrew. "Truck Safety Technology Can Prevent 63,000 Crashes Each Year," AAA Newsroom, 21 Nov 2017.

8Daly, Matthew. "US safety agency to require automatic emergency braking on heavy trucks and buses," Washington News, 22 Jun 2023.

9"Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras," American Transportation Research Institute, April 2023. Gated PDF.