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An estimated two million trucks can be found on highways in the United States. In Nevada, one in every 18 jobs in the state is related to trucking. Of all manufactured goods transported in Nevada, 92% are moved by trucks, in excess of 130,000 tons per day. Trucks travel 1.7 billion miles on Nevada’s roads in a year, and they are the third top user of Nevada's roads, after commuters and tourists.

There are so many semi trucks on the road now that one can easily become complacent about sharing the road with these big vehicles. However, all drivers should pay special attention when driving around them.

Semi trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, 20 times heavier than a 4,000 pound passenger car. In a collision between a semi truck and a car, the result is often a disaster for the passenger car and its occupants. In 2012, 73% of fatalities in accidents involving large trucks across the U.S. were occupants of the other vehicles.


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In 2012 there were 355 fatal traffic crashes of all types in Nevada. Eighteen fatalities (or 7% of these crashes) involved semi trucks.  It is clear that a collision between a semi truck (also known as an 18-wheeler or big rig) and a car can be far more destructive and dangerous than a crash between two passenger cars.

About 66% of all traffic crashes in Nevada were in Clark County and 12% were in Washoe County, the urban counties where Las Vegas, Reno-Sparks, and Carson City are located.

Nevada truck accidents resulting in fatalities were down in 2012, with 18 deaths compared to 35 in 2011.

Eleven of these 18 fatalities were in Clark (9) and Washoe Counties (2). While the majority of crashes of all types are in urban areas, 71% of crashes involving semi trucks take place in rural areas.


The Nevada Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working hard to improve the condition of Nevada’s roads. Many improvements have been made to roads, bridges and other parts of the highway system. Since 2004 the overall traffic fatality rates in Nevada have seen a steady decline, and as of 2012, were on par with the national average.

But this does not change the fact that large trucks are involved in a disproportionate number of fatalities in relation to the number of crashes. Their sheer size and weight makes them more dangerous to other vehicles in a crash. Big trucks also take longer to stop than a car, which can be especially dangerous in wet or icy conditions.


It is very important that regular and quality truck maintenance remain a high priority. Defective brakes or bald tires can lead to fatal crashes. According to, after every 10,000 miles of service, trucks need the following: replacement of all fuel and oil filters; full inspection, adjustment, and replacement of belts; check all lights; air tires to pressure specifications or replace as needed.  After 80,000 miles they highly recommended truckers rotate the steering tires, regardless of how well they were wearing and to also check for frame cracks, front and rear suspension issues. They also recommend checking all gear lube levels.

Driver fatigue continues to be a problem. Drivers are often paid by the mile or are given bonuses based on loads delivered, so they make more money when they put in more hours of driving in a day. But too many hours of driving at one time leads to fatigue and poor decision making. The NTSB has put in place rules restricting the number of hours a truck driver can drive, but these rules are routinely ignored. Sometimes, it is the driver exceeding the limits in order to make more money; while other times it is the trucking company putting pressure on the driver to get high priority cargo delivered in less time.

Electronic devices called electronic speed limiters (also known as governors) have been placed in trucks to keep the truck below a designated safe speed. But it now appears that truck drivers are finding ways to deactivate these governors, potentially putting lives in danger.

While the Nevada DOT makes the roads safer, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looks for ways to improve driver competence and safety, it is important for all drivers to stay alert in the presence of large trucks and be aware of their potential danger.