InTrans / Nov 11, 2019

Heavy Truck Crash Tool to aid state agencies

A new tool developed by the REACTOR Lab provides instant access to over 21,000 heavy truck crashes over the past five years.

Screenshot of Heavy Truck Crash Tool roadway condition page.

It’s the detailed data behind that number, however, that has the ability to help target enforcement efforts and crash countermeasures to reduce and prevent future heavy truck crashes.

“We’re using data to see what is actually causing the crashes, so state agencies can be more strategic in how they’re doing their enforcement,” said Skylar Knickerbocker, InTrans research engineer, who worked on the heavy truck crash tool project.

Heavy trucks can include dump trucks, trucks with tractor trailers, and other commercial trucks. Some of the data in the tool revealed the following:

  • 67% of heavy truck crashes involved another vehicle
  • Nearly 75% of the crashes were property damage only, 1.4% were fatal
  • 75% of the crashes occurred during daylight hours
  • Most crashes occurred during the week

The heavy truck crash tool is available here. The interactive tool allows users to break down data by county, contributing circumstance, driver condition, roadway details, and more.

The InTrans researchers developed readily available crash data into an easy-to-use analysis and visualization tool.

“We’re trying to help them target their efforts, without making it too complicated,” said Zach Hans, an InTrans research engineer, who worked on the data analysis for the tool.

Hans’ previous research also sparked the idea for the heavy truck crash tool.

His 2014 report “Statewide Heavy-Truck Crash Assessment” offered insights — particularly that Iowa “may have a disproportionately higher safety risk” than the rest of the nation — that led the Iowa State Patrol to enact some new strategies.

The tool was also inspired from work Knickerbocker and Hans did on a similar Motorcycle Crash Tool that provides access to motorcycle crashes from 2015 to last year for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

While the ultimate goal of both projects is to improve safety on Iowa’s roadways, the heavy truck crash data is also designed to support the field patrols of both the Iowa State Patrol and Iowa DOT’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement agency.

“This tool will help with our goal to be more effective with our enforcement efforts to reduce traffic related injuries and preventable deaths in the State of Iowa,” said ISP Chief Col. Nathan Fulk.

“Heavy truck crashes have been a concern for Motor Vehicle Enforcement for a long time. It’s why we wanted the 2014 study done. We are excited at the potential to improve safety and be more effective in those efforts thanks to this new tool,” added MVE Chief David Lorenzen.

Hans said the data analysis has shown the importance of collecting the crash data after an incident involving a heavy truck. Since the tool went live in fall of 2018, it has proven to be useful as it’s already gotten more than 8,000 views.