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Avoiding Rollover Accidents

Rollover accidents are some of the most devastating and disastrous accidents that a truck driver can experience. In addition, these accidents often cause both personal and property damage to other cars and people on the road. Tractor-trailer rollover accidents have become such a problem that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) released a guide called “Keep the Load on the Road: A Driver’s Guide to Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention.” This blog post will explore some of the reasons behind truck rollovers, and how they can potentially be prevented.

Federal Programs Aimed to Prevent Rollover Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s program, Keep the Load on the Road: A Driver’s Guide to Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention was designed to provide truck drivers and other commercial drivers with a helpful training resource to help avoid rollovers.  This program has identified four factors that are important for a driver to take into consideration, so as to avoid a rollover including:

Load effects – Commercial drivers, and particularly those who are transporting hazardous materials, need to understand how the load in their vehicle will affect how they operate their vehicle. A driver who is transporting liquid will have to drive differently than a driver who is transporting solid cargo. A driver has to understand that depending on what there are hauling and how it is loaded in their vehicle they may have to adjust their driving.

Highway-related factors – Rollover crashes can often be attributed to factors on the highway such as curves, inclines, declines, and construction. In addition, drivers need to be aware of their surroundings in order to avoid rollovers.

Driver error factors – By identifying common driver errors, truck drivers and other commercial drivers can learn how to avoid accidents. Studies of tractor trailer accidents, and their causes show that more than 78% of rollovers include driver error as a contributing or major factor. The FMCSA, PHMSA, and trucking industry partners responsible for producing the training video believe in the importance of driver education and awareness as a key factor in preventing cargo tank truck rollovers. This video is designed to increase awareness and understanding of the underlying causes that can result in rollovers.

Vehicle design and performance – Not every tractor trailer or commercial vehicle is the same or drives the same. Commercial drivers need to understand the variations in their vehicles as compared to others.

While there may be many other reasons for a truck to rollover the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has identified these above mentioned factors as the most identifiable, and the factors that can be addressed the easiest.

How to avoid rollover accidents

Recently, a heavily traveled section of Interstate 90 in Washington was closed for several hours because a tractor-trailer was involved in a rollover crash, and while it is not clear how this accident happened, these accidents are not uncommon.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s program, “Keep the Load on the Road:  A Driver’s Guide to Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention” drivers can avoid rollover accidents by:

  • Avoid sudden movements that may lead to rollovers
  • Control your load in turns and on straight roadways
  • Identify high-risk areas on roads
  • Remain alert and attentive behind the wheel
  • Control speed and maintain proper “speed cushions”

Across the country another rollover accident caused Route 490 in New York to be closed for several hours as crews tried to clean the scrap metal the truck was carrying. Unlike the accident in Washington, State Police determined that this rollover accident happened because the truck driver was going to fast. The posted speed limit on the area of the Interstate that the truck was driving on was posted at forty miles an hour, however, it was estimated that the driver was going fifty miles an hour through a curve. This highlights some of the points above. The driver in this instance was driving only slightly above the speed limit, however, it was still too fast for the road conditions.  While it is impossible to recreate this scene, if a driver is aware that there is a curve in the road, and they are aware that they should not only be within the speed limit, but providing themselves with a cushion, then some of these accidents may be avoided in the future.

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