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Causes of Truck Rollovers


Truck rollovers can be devastating. Death or injuries to those involved, damages to property or roads, being responsible for the closure of a road for hours at a time and the cost of repairs or replacement and the consequent downtime can leave a company millions out of pocket.

Unfortunately, there is seldom a week that photos of a rollover are not shared in the media.

With the right conditions, a truck rollover happens easily. Trucks are prone to these kind of crashes as drivers have to contend with both a high centre of gravity and centrifugal forces that cause the truck to ‘lean’ in a curve or turn.

A number of scenarios have high risk of rollovers. Four of these are particularly risky for truck drivers yet with the right training drivers can be prepared for what to expect and how to avoid this dangerous and costly position.

Scenario 1: speed and cornering

Speed is estimated to be the cause of up to 45% of crashes in corners and on highway onramps and offramps. When negotiating a corner, drivers need to use height, load and angle or configuration of the corner to decide what speed is required to safely navigate the corner.

Scenario 2: incorrect loading

The high centre of gravity requires the load to be secured. If the load shifts during cornering, the loss of balance increases rollover risk. Tankers can also be at increased risk when partially full as the sloshing of the liquid can upset the balance, particularly when cornering.

Scenario 3: abrupt or oversteering

Abrupt or sharp steering movements are risky. The high centre of gravity will cause a truck to roll over if the driver abruptly steers around an obstacle. Drivers should also be cautious of oversteering in certain situations, such as when traction decreases. When traction is regained but oversteering continues, lateral force increases along with the risk of rollover.

Scenario 4: driver error

A study by international organisation FMSCA, suggests that 78% of tanker rollovers are due to driver error. This can be speeding in bad weather conditions, distracted driving, driving while on medication or while fatigued and various other dangerous driving habits.

The difficulty with rollovers is that once the truck starts to tip, there is nothing you can do to stop it. Additionally, drivers may only feel the start of a rollover when it is well underway. This emphasizes the importance of being aware of risk factors and what is required to ensure that you eliminate all the risks you can.

Eugene Herbert is the managing director of MasterDrive, based in South Africa.

The company’s rollover prevention training teaches drivers about risk factors and provides guidance on how to avoid falling victim to one.

Importantly, the unique engineering of the truck allows drivers to feel what an actual rollover feels like without going all the way over. It is an invaluable opportunity to understand a rollover without the financial implications.

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