Large truck crashes are a major contributor to highway deaths, not just in Montana, but also across the nation. A report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that 11 percent of highway deaths occur as the result of a crash involving a large truck. In 2015, the latest year for which national statistics are available, 3,852 people died in large truck crashes; 69 percent of them were in passenger cars and other vehicles, 16 percent were in the trucks themselves, and 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians.
A separate report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2015. This was an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
One of the reasons why large trucks are so lethal is that when they are fully loaded, their stopping distance is 20-40 percent longer than that of a car. Should the road be wet and/or slippery, their stopping distance increases. Of the 2015 large truck crashes that resulted in one or more fatalities, 75 percent involved tractor-trailers and 25 percent involved single-unit trucks.
Another reason for large truck crashes is driver fatigue. Despite federal regulations setting the number of hours they can drive without stopping to rest, many commercial truck drivers actually drive for longer periods.
Crash locations and times
Fifty-three percent of the deaths resulting from large truck crashes occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. Only 30 percent of the deadly collisions happened on highways and interstates, and another 14 percent occurred on other roads.
Eighty-three percent of large truck crash deaths occurred during the week; only 17 percent occurred on weekends. The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m. were the deadliest, with 58 percent of large truck crash deaths occurring during that time period.