Tanker truck rollovers are a common type of trucking accident, and one that can have serious consequences. Many tanker rollovers result in serious injury to the driver, including head injuries and spinal cord injuries. When a tanker rollover occurs, the materials inside the tanker can catch on fire and can cause extensive property damage as well as burn injuries. When tankers rollover, they also typically crash into other vehicles, causing fatalities and serious damage.
Although many factors can contribute to these types of accidents, a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in conjunction with the Battelle Memorial Institute suggests that almost one in four such accidents (75%) can be attributed to driver error. Another 25% of such accidents are caused by factors such as weather conditions, the actions of other drivers, and road conditions as well as other factors.
Many people assume that many trucking accidents occur on sharp curves or exit ramps, where trucks must merge with traffic. However, the FMCSA research study surprisingly found that in 90% of tanker rollover cases, accidents occurred on straight roads or when a truck collided with another vehicle. In only about 10% of cases did collisions occur on curves or ramps. This result surprised even FMCSA members and researchers, who were expecting higher accident rates on curves and ramps.
Part of the reason why driver error is such a concern in tanker rollover accidents, according to the FMCSA study, is that when the driver of a truck begins to lose control of the truck, the driver will often instinctually overcorrect the steering. This maneuver increases the risk of rollovers significantly. According to the FMCSA study, this overcorrected steering is one of the most common mistakes in tanker rollover accidents.
The FMCSA report, according to industry insiders, suggests that improved driver training and electronic stability controls could significantly affect rollover accident rates. Some researchers discussed new truck designs which would lower the center of gravity in trucks and tankers, making rollovers less likely. However, many industry insiders note that such designs are not practical and would increase costs too much. Many believe that increased stability controls and better driver training would help correct many of the problems associated with driver error.