Deadly Highways: Large Truck Rollovers

Truck Rollover AccidentsA recent article from Bloomberg News covers highway rollover deaths in the Atlanta area. While the article discusses dangerous ramps on Interstate 75, it’s not as though the hills and mountains in Colorado don’t offer dangerous situations for truckers on our interstates and highways. The article mentions that while rollovers only account for 3.3 % of all large-truck crashes, they involved more than half the deaths to drivers and their occupants in 2012. This is astounding and terrifying. The article goes on to mention how outdated highway engineering and the increase in the trucking industry may be contributing to the deadly rollovers. Many of the curves on highways and exit ramps were made 40 years ago and don’t have the right degree of banking for trucks today according to a safety expert for Groendyke Transport, a trucking company.

An Analysis of Large Truck Rollovers

Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put together a study titled: Analysis of Large Truck Rollover Crashes. The analysis covers the contributing factors to rollovers and suggestions to prevent rollovers. The study mentions that 70% of rollovers involve a Class 8 tractor-trailer, which is commonly referred to as “semi.”

The study broke down the contributing factors into the following seven categories:

  1. Speed: which is the biggest contributor to rollovers (45% of the cases they studied)!
  2. Lack of Attention: a third of attention-related rollovers were due to sleep deprivation in this study.
  3. Errors in Control
  4. Lack of Adequate Visual Search
  5. Pre-Operation: road or truck conditions.
  6. Other Drivers
  7. Unknown Faults with Vehicle

The study notes that a majority of rollovers occur on curves (such as on and off ramps) where drivers misjudge their speed in relation to the weight of the truck. It also discusses the three major control errors on the part of drivers that are distinctive to truck rollovers, which are: turning too sharply, turning too little to remain on the road, and overcorrecting path errors. Additionally, a quarter of rollovers result from the driver’s failure to adjust speed to the height and weight of the load being carried.

Most importantly the study recommends that Commercial Driver License programs could improve safety for truck drivers by requiring the use of video to expose drivers to situations involving rollovers. Unfortunately, drivers often learn about rollovers through printed materials.

Suggested Information

Recently the FMCSA has created the Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention course, which includes a training video. Check it out here.

Also check out the American Transportation Research Institute for additional information.

I hope this brings to light how important safety is for truck drivers and brings greater awareness for all of us on the road.

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