Truck Rollover Accidents

Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for rollover truck accidents can be alarming. According to the most recent statistics available, about 327,000 crashes involving big rigs happen each year.

Out of those numbers, about 15,000 commercial tractor-trailers experience a rollover event annually, averaging to about one rollover for every million miles of truck travel.

Due to the size and mass of these vehicles, it is no surprise that these accidents inevitably carry with them catastrophic injuries for those victims who were unlucky enough to be in the truck’s path. Even though only about four percent of all trucking accidents involve a rollover event, more than 12 percent of all fatal truck accidents result from rollover events.

Analyzing the Data

The last major Crash Causation Study involving big trucks was carried out by the FMCSA in 2008, when the agency delved into detail regarding 239 crashes during which a truck rolled over. The in-depth analysis of that report revealed that almost half of the trucks in the study crashed from failing to adjust speed to curves in the road, the load carried by the truck, the mechanical condition of the truck’s brakes, the condition of the road surface and intersection conditions.

The second major crash contributor involves the driver and specifically the driver’s attention. Simply being disengaged, dozing or falling asleep at the wheel and distraction can all lead to situations where a relatively minor change in the situation ultimately resulted in a rollover crash.

The third major contributor to rollover crashes involves steering. Often a truck driver will over-steer to the point of rolling over, not steer well enough to stay in the lane, and over-correct their position on the road to the point the driver must counter-steer to stay on the road.

Finally, the large cargo carried by big rigs presents a frequent problem. When drivers fail to make note of their height, weight or security, truck drivers may be found liable if the inertia of their cargo causes the truck to rollover and injure other drivers. If a driver allows loading to take place before they are assigned and on duty to inspect the cargo, he or she may be found liable in the event of a rollover crash.

Instruction in rollover prevention also presents a minor but causative problem for truck drivers. Most instruction in rollover prevention is delivered through printed or web-based material. More modern video simulations would allow truck drivers to experience the consequences of speeding, improper loads and over-steering without risking the lives of other drivers.

The Need for Speed

Speed can be a complicated issue when it comes to rollover crashes. Rollover accidents occur when the front wheels of a tractor-trailer are turning the truck more quickly than the cargo it is carrying. The faster the speed of the vehicle, the greater the difference in the inertia of the cargo. The second issue to consider is that large commercial trucks mainly operate on Interstates and other roadways where drivers travel at speed.

When a rollover crash occurs in these locations, “reckless driving” is usually not the factor. Instead, rollover crashes come when drivers drive faster than is safe for the particular combination of vehicle, road and traffic conditions at play at the time. Crashes may also have multiple causes, depending on the complexity of the traffic, weather, and road conditions at the time of an accident.

Driving on curves like off-ramps is where big rigs become deadliest. Here, excess speed becomes the biggest factor, accounting for two-thirds of all speed-related truck rollover accidents. Tractor-trailers are the most vulnerable to curves, reflecting the lower roll stability of the trailer.

The single biggest cause for truck rollovers is drivers simply misjudging the speed at which a curve can be safely entered. The judgement cause is aggravated in many locations by posted speed limits that are too high for loaded tractor-trailers to make safely.

Rollover Prevention

Knowing what causes rollover truck accidents will hopefully allow countermeasure to circumvent these causes in the future. Sign at freeway exits imposing lower speed limits on trucks or GPS devices that advise vehicles of dangerous load conditions are two possibilities. A more proactive approach would be to provide rollover prevention simulations in training programs for drivers of trucks, especially tractor-trailers that are particularly prone to rollover accidents. The situations that lead to rollovers are better presented visually. While the FMCSA has produced safety videos to help train drivers about the risks of truck rollover accidents, there is no requirement that drivers be trained in these techniques.
Finding Fault

A variety of persons or entities may be found liable for damages in the event of a rollover crash involving a commercial truck. These may include:

  • The vehicle driver if the truck rollover accident occurred due to driver error
  • The manufacturer or truck maintenance team if a mechanical item such as brakes or tires were defective or poorly maintained
  • Cargo loading personnel if the cargo was not loaded properly
  • Another driver if their behavior or driving caused the truck driver to lose control
  • A municipality if the accident was caused by dangerous road hazards

Contact a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Truck accident cases involving rollover truck accidents are complex and can prove confusing to their victims. Proving negligence in a crash that involves a truck rollover takes an investment of time, experience, and resources.

If you have been injured in an auto accident involving a truck rollover or any other incident involving an 18-wheeler, big rig or another large commercial truck, the lawyers of Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., can pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Call a Chicago truck accident attorney today a (312) 236-2900.