What to Know About Tanker Truck Rollover Accidents

Safety training and technology may reduce tanker truck rollovers.

The other truckers call them “suicide jockeys”—the pedal pilots who push tankers on long hauls or through big cities with no regard for safety of others. Although their lower centers of gravity make tankers considerably less prone to rollover accidents than freighters, when a tanker does go wheels-up, it is very likely to explode in a massive fireball, instantly incinerating its driver.

Of course, responsible and cost-conscious carriers send only their best, most experienced drivers out in tankers, but even veteran drivers frequently complain they do not get nearly enough training and practice in rollover prevention strategies and tactics as they feel they should. They also stress that, no matter who is at fault in a tanker rollover, the truck driver is always most likely to be seriously injured or killed.

Survivors and first-hand eyewitnesses report that by the time a driver realizes they’re rolling, it is already too late for them to correct; a failed attempt at correcting for the roll may actually intensify centrifugal force and G-forces, multiplying the accident’s tragic consequences. One long-time tanker truck driver frankly declares, “If your tanker rolls and explodes, you should pray for quick and easy death, because the burn injuries from tanker explosions are painful beyond description.”

Effective safety training programs dramatically reduce rollover risks.

Bulk Transporter magazine reports:

DOT research suggests that six to seven truck rollovers occur every day across the United States. Rollovers are a factor in 25 percent of hazardous materials transport accidents and contribute to 75 percent of the spills. Approximately 45 percent of truck driver injuries are incurred in rollovers, and these accidents account for around 52 percent of truck driver fatalities. Common sense and the knowledge of the average cost of a tanker rollover should be enough incentive for companies to institute major safety programs and especially training in rollover prevention but it seems to be ignored across the United States. For the record, the cost of an average rollover is $595,215.

Allowing for all the complex variables that influence causes and consequences of tanker rollovers, researchers nevertheless are unanimous in their conclusion about causes of accidents and the need for safety training programs: “Far and away, the driver is the most critical factor. No amount of technology or vehicle redesign can overcome serious driver error or recklessness.” They have called for uniform pre-service and in-service rollover safety training, and many encouraged carriers and insurers to mandate regular driver recertification with simulators or off-road practice courses as parts of in-house safety training programs.

Drilling down on the substance of rollover safety training programs, several analysts openly criticize the overemphasis that driver-training programs place on vehicle and highway factors at the expense of training and practice in driving skills. Critics complain most safety training programs do not satisfactorily address the leading causes of rollovers.

For example, in most serious incidents, drivers entered curves at excessive speed and failed to calculate or anticipate the curves’ sharpness and banking. Training, however, seldom includes direct instruction in how to make these calculations and corrections without overcompensating. Just as importantly, drivers generally do not know how to execute avoidance maneuvers or corrections with appropriate restraint and control. In almost all serious incidents, drivers acted abruptly, braking too hard, over-steering, and losing control of their vehicles. Follow-up studies indicated the majority of these drivers had no previous hands-on experience with effective counter-measures for centrifugal force and shifts in their vehicles’ centers of gravity.

Tanker Truck Rollover Accident Lawyers

Tanker truck rollovers may seem relatively simple—truck and driver versus gravity, truck and driver versus car, truck and driver versus wet pavement, or truck and driver versus soft shoulder. Experienced trucking attorneys understand, however, that truck rollover cases usually implicate the trucking company, all the manufacturers of parts in the truck, the people who loaded the truck, government highway officials, and literally hundreds of other potential contributors to the accident. Therefore, they encourage families of rollover accident victims to retain the best legal counsel available before making any legal decision.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a tanker truck rollover accident, the knowledgeable trucking attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help you seek compensation for medical bills, property damage, lost wages due to missed work, pain and suffering, and more. Call us at 800-863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our trucking accident lawyers. Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.