According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rollovers account for only five percent of the big truck accidents, but they have a higher fatality rate than other crashes. Statistics through 2016 show that nearly 2000 big truck and tanker rollover accidents occur in the United States each year, and around 60% result in fatalities.
These alarming statistics prompted the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system mandate (FMVSS136), effective in December 2017, requiring all new heavy vehicles to be equipped with ESC systems. The ESC’s computer automatically maintains directional control via steering and selective braking when the driver is unable to control the vehicle quickly enough to prevent a rollover. The NHTSA expects the mandate to prevent 40% to 56% of the rollovers, prevent 1800 to 2300 crashes annually, and prevent 649 to 858 injuries each year.
The mandate does not require older vehicles to install ESC systems, and the device will not stop all rollovers, so the potential remains for these serious accidents to occur.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HEAVY TRUCK ROLLOVERS
Most people believe that rollover crashes happen on curvy roads…at night…in bad weather…with inexperienced drivers. But the fact is that the majority of these accidents occur on straight stretches of road in dry weather during daylight hours. And 60% of the drivers involved have been in the trucking business for at least ten years!
Unfortunately, DRIVER ERROR plays a significant part in rollover crashes, followed by POOR TRUCK MAINTENANCE and UNSECURED LOADS. Steve Simmons, of Agribusiness Risk Management AVP, stressed the importance of EDUCATION in preventing rollover accidents:
“By educating drivers and fleet managers of the risks and causes of tractor-trailer rollovers, anti-rollover technology and safe operating procedures, we can help reduce these extremely dangerous and costly accidents.”
TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEAVY TRUCK ROLLOVER
- DON’T SPEED – Obey speed limits. Remember, a loaded tractor-trailer takes 20% to 40% farther to stop than cars do.
- STAY FOCUSED – Inattention is the leading single cause of accidents. Avoid drifting over into a soft shoulder, riding up over a curb, or making an improper turn at an intersection by staying focused on your driving and not your cell phone, food, maps, etc.
- KEEP UP WITH REGULAR PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE – A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study found that 54% of the vehicles involved in a rollover accident had some sort of brake damage.
- ALWAYS DO YOUR PRE-TRIP VEHICLE INSPECTION – Be sure that your truck is mechanically sound before each trip.
- UNDERSTAND THE DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE OF THE TYPE OF TRUCK YOU WILL BE DRIVING – For example a tanker truck handles differently than a reefer or a flatbed.
- MAKE SURE YOUR LOAD IS PROPERLY SECURED – Freight must be properly blocked and secured with straps, retaining bars, air bags, or dunnage. Loads will shift inside the trailer if not properly secured.
- AVOID SUDDEN MANEUVERS, REMEMBER THE HIGH CENTER OF GRAVITY – Quick turns can put you at a higher risk of a jack-knife or rollover in a matter of seconds.
- SLOW DOWN ON CURVES, OFF-RAMPS, AND GOING AROUND CORNERS – Always be aware of the angles of entry and exit from highways, and the impact of wind on the maneuverability of your vehicle.
- DON’T DRIVE IF YOU ARE FATIGUED OR ILL – Turning up the radio or driving with your windows open are not effective ways to keep you alert. Hours of Service regulations are in place to prevent fatigue-related accidents.
- BE AWARE OF POOR WEATHER AND ROAD CONDITIONS – Poor visibility, slippery roads, construction lane changes, etc. all require adjustments in your driving.