Safety Tips

How to Prevent Truck Rollovers

Brian Pickett
6 Minutes

As a driver, you are the one who is responsible for preventing and avoiding potential accidents. Many talk about other types of accidents and how to avoid them, but there are a few that are considered more dangerous than others. For instance, Cargo Tank Truck Rollovers are considered to be one of the most dangerous types of accidents for truck drivers. Although the rate of accidents involving rollovers are not high, the rate of truck rollovers causing injury and even death is significantly high at 48%.

Why do rollovers happen?

Truck Rollover on Interstate

Now let's break down why these rollover accidents occur. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, approximately 78% of rollovers involve driver error. Road rage and busy roads can be contributing factors, but the Truck Crash Causation Study by the FMCSA stated that mechanical defects (mostly with tires and brakes), unfamiliar routes, and fatigue were the leading causes. Other things to take into consideration as to why truck rollovers occur are the vehicle's design and performance, and its load effects. Cargo trailers have a high center of gravity meaning that the longer the trailer is, the more it leans when making a turn. So if you misjudge a turn, the more sloshing will occur if it's too sudden.

This leads us into how the load can potentially cause accidents. A lot of the time, drivers who experienced rollovers will say the load shifted. Although this is true, the load will always shift, because it is always shifting according to how the driver is driving. One wrong move, and you could heighten your chances of a rollover.

Other than the vehicle's design and its load, other situations can lead to vehicle turnovers, such as highway conditions, weather conditions, and other motorists. In 2018, traffic accidents involving semi trucks accounted for 6.5% of all accidents, but that number is on the rise. Not all accidents are avoidable, but there are things that you as the driver can follow to avoid truck rollovers and other types of accidents.

How to Prevent Truck Rollovers

The first thing to do is to slow it down.

Reducing your speed will also reduce your risk for a vehicle turnover. Always obey the speed limits and take it slow around corners. Higher speeds will lead to the load shifting behind you, possibly causing you to lose control. Fast speeds also mean less time to adjust if you misjudge any upcoming turns or other obstacles you may face.

Stay alert when driving.

Falling asleep at the wheel or driving while fatigued is not only extremely dangerous, but also never acceptable. We know there are deadlines you have to meet, but putting your health and safety first is always the priority. You might think that turning up the radio or rolling down your windows will help you stay alert, but that isn't the case. Remember that driver fatigue is one of the three leading causes to semi truck accidents and that's why the Hours-of-Service Regulations are put in place to prevent fatigue-related accidents.

Ensure your truck is mechanically sound before setting off.

Do a pre-trip vehicle inspection to ensure everything is in working order. Brake and tire issues are the main culprits for accidents caused by mechanical defects. You don't want to be involved in a rollover or any other accident because your brakes weren't properly checked beforehand.

Put down the distractions.

Driving for long periods of time can make it difficult to keep yourself entertained. Cellphones have become an increasing problem for all drivers, not just semi truck drivers. Using cellphones while driving is extremely unsafe and it is also very illegal. Just don't do it.

Lastly, understand the design and performance of the truck.

Depending on the load type, it will alter the way the driver should drive. Always use caution, but even more so with hazardous material loads. Think about what you're hauling and act accordingly.

A small side note to this: right turns at slow speeds where a driver loses sight of the right side of the trailer and drops the trailer tires into drainage ditches will most have a chance for turnovers. If you can't see the right rear of your vehicle when making a right turn, STOP, activate emergency flashers, position right mirror until you have a clear view, and if safe, turn slowly. If it's not safe to continue forward, back up safely, re-position the trailer to give adequate space and then continue with the turn.

Hazardous Materials are Hazardous for a reason.

As you are carrying these loads, remember what they contain. These compounds have their own safety precautions and in the event of a rollover, damage to the trailer can release the hazardous materials. Liquid Nitrogen and other toxic chemicals can leak and ultimately be fatal. Signs that there is a leak and that you should leave the area include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Consciousness

Compounds like Nitrogen, Argon, Carbon Dioxide and Helium can all be invisible killers, as they are odorless and colorless. Always have an oxygen monitor with a loud audible and visual alarm to alert you to any danger. If you feel like you are in a dangerous situation or are entering a dangerous situation, know that you have the right to stop what you are doing. Under the Stop Work Authority, if you feel that there is a present risk to your healthy and safety, you have the right to not proceed. The Stop Work Authority states that you:

  • Have stop work authority, and am expected to use it whenever you see something you believe to be unsafe.
  • Are responsible for your own safety - you won't do anything you believe to be unsafe.
  • Have the responsibility for your coworkers' safety - you don't let them do anything unsafe.
  • Are responsible for reporting all safety incidents to your supervisor, including injuries or accidents you are involved in.
  • Are expected to report all safety concerns to your supervisor, safety committee, or safety representative. If necessary, elevate the concerns through any other available avenues within the company.
In summary

Semi truck rollovers are one of the most dangerous of critical crashes, causing personal injuries and fatalities. The numbers for semi truck rollovers are low, but they do still happen. Rollovers are something that are completely avoidable if following the proper and safe procedures when delivering a load. Remember, stay alert, be aware of your surroundings and know the design and performance of the type of vehicle you're hauling. We all know how important deadlines are, but safety of the drivers is your number one priority.


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration | Hours of Service | Truck Accident Statistics

Colombo Law | Semi Truck Accident Statistics

Stop Work Authority

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