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4 Common Causes of Truck Rollover Accidents

Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2015
Blog, Truck Accident Injuries

A rollover is one of the worst kinds of truck accident you can have. Rollovers occur when a truck’s wheels lose contact with the road, causing the truck to end up on its side, or even upside-down. Trucks are particularly prone to this kind of accident because they have such a high center of gravity. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), centrifugal forces can cause a truck to lean during a curve or turn. Combine this with a top-heavy and potentially unstable load, and it’s a wonder more accidents don’t happen.

There are many causes of rollover accidents involving trucks, but we’re going to focus on the four most common causes of rollover accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other experts:

Driving Too Fast To Safely Negotiate a Curve

In order to safely negotiate a curve, a driver needs to consider the height and load of their truck, as well as road conditions and the configuration of the curve. Speed is often the biggest contributing factor in rollover crashes; according to one study, it contributed to 45 percent of such crashes. Speed is also a big contributor to those rollovers that occur on highway exit and entrance ramps.

Sudden Changes in Steering or Oversteering

If a truck driver makes an abrupt change in steering to avoid another vehicle or an obstacle in the road, the vehicle’s high center of gravity may cause it to roll over. Another common cause of rollover accidents is oversteering. If a truck drives off a paved roadway for any reason, the driver will have to use larger steering movements to control the vehicle on dirt or sand. When the commercial vehicle finally regains traction on pavement, these broad steering actions can lead to a sharp increase in lateral force, causing the vehicle to rollover.

Improperly Loaded or Improperly Secured Cargo

A fully loaded truck has a high center of gravity, so it’s very important that the load be centered and kept from shifting. Cargo that shifts as the truck is rounding a corner will upset the balance of the truck and increase its chances of tipping over. A partially full tanker truck is also at risk because of the thousands of gallons of liquid sloshing around inside as it attempts to negotiate a curve.

Driver Error

According to this article by the FMSCA, “over 78% of (tank truck) rollovers involve driver error.” These errors can include driving too fast for road and weather conditions, taking a ramp or curve too fast, driving while ill or tired, using mobile devices, or even just reaching for a drink or the radio controls.

The FMCSA recommends that truckers follow these guidelines:

  • 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”

A rollover accident is a very scary situation, especially since it has so much potential for harm. A 40-ton tanker truck sliding down the highway on its side is a sight which isn’t soon forgotten. The thought of that truck spewing a torrent of hazardous liquids into the path of other vehicles is equally frightening. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience an accident like this, please get in touch with DDB Law today. Our knowledge and experience will allow us to help you through this difficult time.