Few accidents are as dangerous to the professional driver as a rollover. In 2013, nearly half of all large truck occupant fatalities occurred as a result of rollovers.1
The costs to repair or replace equipment and cargo following a rollover can be substantial. Recovery, towing and environmental clean-up expenses resulting from spilled fuel or hazardous cargo can drive these costs even higher. But none of these costs compare to the cost of liability when others are hurt.
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, a landmark truck accident study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration between 2001 and 2003, nine percent of truck crashes were classified as rollovers.2 Given the seriousness of truck rollover crashes, there are good reasons to work toward preventing them. Recognizing the causes is the place to start.
The study showed that driving too fast was the most common cause of rollovers. In 45 percent of rollover accidents, excessive speed is the greatest contributing factor. Traveling too fast around a curve accounts for two-thirds of these speed-related rollovers.3
Inattention is the second biggest factor, contributing to 23 percent of rollovers.4 Examples of inattentiveness included being distracted by objects along the roadway, talking on a cell phone or driving while drowsy.
A Costly Mistake
Rollover crashes can be severe. The following average costs include medical and workers compensation costs, operational expenses, property and cargo damage, liability claims and legal fees.
- Property damage only - $196,958
- Injury - $462,470
- Fatality - $1,143,018
Source: Analysis of Benefits and Costs of Roll Stability Control Systems for the Trucking Industry, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, February 2009.
Truck Rollover Causes:
- Excessive speed - 45%
- Inattention/asleep - 23%
- Driver control errors - 19%
- Struck by other vehicle - 13%
- Driver/vehicle condition - 8%
- Inadequate visual search - 3%
Note: Some rollover accidents involved multiple causes.
Source: Analysis of Large Truck Rollover Crashes, American Association of Automotive Medicine, 2008.
Driver control errors are the third most common factor, contributing to 19 percent of rollovers.5 Examples of control errors include over- or under-steering, poor maneuvering, overcorrecting after drifting off the road or out of a lane, failing to control speed on a downhill and improper braking.
To a lesser degree, rollover crashes also resulted from factors such as not seeing hazards, following too closely, not adequately securing cargo, losing consciousness while driving as a result of a medical issue, being struck by other vehicles and tire or brake failure.
Based on past research, it’s clear that working to prevent rollovers can hinge on a few basic safe driving principles. Here’s what you can do to help avoid being involved in a rollover crash:
- Watch your speed. Most rollover crashes occur in curves, predominantly highway entrance and exit ramps. Slowing down is key to helping prevent them. Posted advisory speed limits for curves are not intended for trucks, particularly tank trailers and trucks with a high center of gravity. Excessive speed, even on a straight roadway, can be dangerous too. It gives you less time to react to hazards, and your vehicle will be less stable if you do need to take evasive action. Be extra cautious driving down steep grades to avoid excessive speeds.
- Avoid distractions. It only takes a momentary distraction for you to overlook a hazard, misjudge a turn or drift off the road. If you have to make a sudden move, you could lose control.
- Get adequate rest. Many rollover crashes are attributed to inattentiveness caused by the driver being drowsy or falling asleep. Getting adequate rest is important to make sure you are alert. For the average person, that means getting 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Avoid driving late at night. For most people, this is when the urge to sleep is the strongest, no matter what they do to fight it.
- Check your truck and cargo. Know what your cargo is and how it is loaded and secured. The higher a truck’s center of gravity, the less it will take for it to roll over. Make sure your cargo is secured to prevent it from shifting when you turn. Check tires and brakes during your pre-trip inspection to ensure they are in good working condition.
- Stay healthy. Some rollover accidents are attributed to drivers being ill or losing consciousness while driving. Get regular physicals. If you do not feel well, be proactive and consult your doctor. If you become ill while driving, find a safe place to park and seek help.
1 2013 Large Truck Fatality Facts, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, iihs.org.
2 Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, FMCSA, 2006.
3 Analysis of Large Truck Rollover Crashes, American Association of Automotive Medicine, 2008.