Rollover Prevention: How to Keep Your Cargo Tank Truck Upright and Out of Trouble


Rollover Prevention: How to Keep Your Cargo Tank Truck Upright and Out of Trouble

If you drive a cargo tank truck, you know how dangerous a rollover can be. From causing a fire to exposing yourself and others to hazardous materials, a rollover can have far-ranging consequences that can lead to absolute disaster. It’s crucial to know what you can do to avoid a rollover so that you and everyone around you stays safe while you’re out on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have found that 78 percent of rollover accidents happen due to driver error. That means that you’re the key ingredient in helping to prevent rollover accidents. Here’s what you should know.

What Causes a Rollover?

If you’ve been in the commercial driving industry long enough, you’ve probably heard that the main cause of a rollover is driving too fast given current road and weather conditions. Sometimes that’s the case, and driving too fast can certainly put you at a greater risk for a rollover situation, but that’s a rather simplistic explanation. Another common answer is that rollovers happen mostly on entrance and exit ramps due to a miscalculation on the driver’s part about how wide they should turn or how fast they can take the curve. However, you might be surprised to learn that, statistically, rollovers happen most often on straight roads.

You might think that’s odd, but if you consider that you’re far more focused on the road while navigating an onramp or off ramp than you are on a straight road, it starts to make sense. After all, focus is a large part of staying safe on the road. So if you’re more focused when the situation is clearly more dangerous, such as taking those turns, it’s understandable that accidents are less likely to happen there. On the straight roads, though, your perceived risk is lower, so you don’t pay as close of attention to the road.

There are four main factors at play in rollover accidents: vehicle design, load effects, highway factors, and driver-related factors.

Vehicle Design

Every object has a center of gravity, and your cargo tank truck is no exception. The reason that the design of your vehicle plays a contributing role in rollover incidents is because its center of gravity is high compared to its overall build. In other words, it’s far less stable and more susceptible to leaning when turning. The sharpness, bank, and speed at which you turn – even on subtle turns along seemingly straight roads – can contribute to a rollover. Having a high center of gravity means that your vehicle is vulnerable to a rollover on roads that you’d never consider dangerous in a sedan or jeep, both of which have a lower center of gravity.

When you turn, and the vehicle leans, the center of gravity shifts to the outside of the tank in the direction of the turn. That means any liquid load you’re carrying shifts, as well, which can literally push the tank over and cause a rollover incident.

Load Effects

When you’re carrying a liquid load, that liquid is shifting all the time. Most drivers who have been in a rollover situation will tell you that their load shifted. But your load is always shifting, no matter what, because it’s responding to your actions behind the wheel. What you really want to avoid is any sudden shift, as that can cause major problems. Slamming on your brakes, taking a curve too quickly, or otherwise shifting your load in a drastic fashion is what really causes the rollover, not the speed or angle of the turn itself.

If you think carrying a full load is challenging, you’re right. However, it’s more dangerous to carry a partial liquid load because there’s more room for it to move around inside the tank. In fact, over 94 percent of rollover accidents occur in vehicles carrying a partial load, so make sure you’re paying close attention on straight roads to upcoming curves, uphill or downhill navigation, and your speed.

Highway Factors

Road conditions can affect you as a cargo tank truck driver more than they might affect other drivers. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Look ahead of you and around you at all times to make sure you’re aware of any upcoming construction, vehicles on either side of you, changes in traffic speed, and other highway factors that you need to adjust for. Always remember that carrying a liquid load means you have to respond much more slowly to these situations, so you need to look ahead in order to give yourself time to safely navigate the situation.

Driver-Related Factors

Your behavior behind the wheel is perhaps one of the most influential factors relating to your safety, and the safety of those around you, when you’re out on the road. Engaging in unsafe behavior can be a recipe for a rollover, so make sure to stay vigilant and engage in safe behaviors while driving. Unsafe behaviors include driving while fatigued, driving at speeds that are unsafe for the current road conditions, talking on the cell phone, texting, becoming too complacent and not paying attention, and, of course, driving under the influence. Any time you’re distracted or operating with a diminished capacity, you’re putting yourself and everyone else around you in danger.

In summary, it’s important to be aware of the physics involved in driving a cargo tank truck. Rollovers can happen in an instant, and with a liquid load that moves all the time, it’s important to be aware at all times. Drive slowly, look ahead of you, manage your turning radius, avoid sudden braking, and never drive when you’re distracted. If you do get into a rollover accident, make sure to call a traffic attorney right away. They can help you obtain the best possible outcome given your specific situation and help you get back on the road as soon as possible.


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