NJM Blog

Get Ahead of Commercial Vehicle Crashes

Wrecked white van getting pulled into tow truck.

Businesses of all sizes use commercial vehicles to transport people and materials. Depending on the business operations, a commercial vehicle can range in size from a small sedan to a large tractor trailer. Each type of vehicle has its own risk factors for a crash, which employers can anticipate and get ahead of through planning, safety features, and employee training.

In 2020, medium and large trucks accounted for 4,842 fatal crashes4 in the United States, with 4,965 deaths and 146,930 injuries.1 These numbers represent a 31% increase1 in fatalities involving medium and large trucks over the past decade.

Business owners have a duty to do what they can to protect their employees and communities. NJM reviewed several safety reports released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and identified the most common conditions leading to a crash. Based on these findings, we have six strategies for reducing the likelihood of crashes involving your business’s large vehicles.

Install Forward Crash Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technologies

  • The Data: In a 2022 study, researchers found that FCW and AEB technologies would “possibly or probably” have reduced the severity or prevented a crash.2 The researchers based their conclusion on the analysis of a random sample of 400 crashes involving medium trucks.

  • Your Proactive Strategy: Install and activate FCW and AEB technologies in vehicles where possible. When buying new vehicles, look for these safety features.

Choose drivers with good driving safety records

  • The Data: In 2020, drivers of large trucks who had a prior recorded crash (21.3% of crashes) or speeding conviction (18.8%) within the past five years were slightly more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than similar motorcycle, passenger car, and light truck drivers without prior records.1

  • Your Proactive Strategy: When hiring drivers or assigning job responsibilities, investigate the driving record of your employees. If an employee has an accident history, consider enrolling them in a driver safety program before assigning them to the road.

Encourage drivers to remain alert and avoid distractions

  • The Data: Recognition errors accounted for 34% of crashes in the 2022 study of crashes involving medium–duty trucks.2 Recognition errors include inattention, distraction, and inadequate surveillance.5

  • Your Proactive Strategy: Restrict the use of phones by drivers. Do what you can to reduce driver’s temptation to look at their phone by refraining from calling, texting, or emailing them while they are driving. Provide training and regular refreshers on the dangers of distracted driving.

Train drivers to make safe driving decisions

  • The Data: Decision errors accounted for 23% of crashes in the study.2 Decision errors include driving too fast for conditions or curves, falsely assuming another’s actions, illegal maneuvering, and misjudging a gap or another driver’s speed.5

  • Your Proactive Strategy: Support your employees’ driver training journey, including obtaining a commercial drivers license if they will be operating medium– or large–duty trucks. Require regular, formal driver training (both classroom instruction and behind–the–wheel training) to refresh your employees’ safety knowledge.

Get drivers familiar with operating larger vehicles

  • The Data: Performance errors accounted for 12% of crashes in the study.2 Performance errors include overcompensation, poor directional control, etc.5

  • Your Proactive Strategy: Ensure that your employees have experience driving the specific vehicle before they become the primary operator. Spend some time familiarizing them with the handling and safety features of the vehicle.

Enforce driver safety measures

  • The Data: Non–performance errors accounted for 10% of crashes in the study.2 The most common non–performance error is sleep.5

  • Your Proactive Strategy: Establish a strict policy that drivers shall not operate company vehicles while fatigued or under the influence. Reduce long–distance travel as much as possible and build in time for breaks when driving on long, repetitive stretches of road is unavoidable. Keep driving to daylight hours and good road conditions.


  1. National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022, April). Large trucks: 2020 data (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 813 286). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov

  2. Mynatt, M., Zhang, F., Brophy, J., Subramanian, R., & Morgan, T. (2022, September). Medium-truck special study (Report No. DOT HS 813 371). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov

  3. My car does what? (n.d.) National Safety Council. mycardoeswhat.org

  4. National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022, October). Traffic safety facts 2020: A compilation of motor vehicle crash data (Report No. DOT HS 813 375). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. crashstats. nhtsa.dot.gov

  5. Singh, S. (2015, February). Critical reasons for crashes investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. (Traffic Safety Facts Crash•Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 115). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov

The information contained in this article should not be construed as professional advice, and is not intended to replace official sources. Other resources linked from these pages are maintained by independent providers; therefore, NJM cannot guarantee their accuracy.