​A tool is now available to help drivers avoid rollovers. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) created a database that identifies rollover “hot spots” in 31 states. Drivers can search this interactive map to find rollover hotspots on their routes. The findings were compiled after analyzing more than 50,000 crash records from a nine-year period.

The database is the first phase of a three-part research study focused on reducing large truck rollovers. During the second phase, ATRI will work to educate drivers and fleets about these high-risk areas. In the third phase, the organization will seek ways to lower the risk of rollover crashes at the specific high-risk locations.

Rollovers typically start with the trailer tires on the side of a curve coming off the road. As the trailer tires lift farther off the ground, the back of the trailer starts to twist, causing a rippling effect of twisting the length of the trailer. It is almost impossible to feel the tractor start to lean. By the time a driver can feel the lean, it is too late because of the articulation at the fifth wheel.  The rollover is going to happen.

Large trucks are most susceptible to rollovers, which can happen for a variety of reasons. If the wheels of a large truck strike something while turning, such as a curb or object on the road, it can cause a rollover. Abrupt lane changes, sudden road maneuvers and traveling too fast, especially on curves, can also increase the risk of a rollover.

Drivers must adjust their speed in advance of curves in the road. If they take a curve too fast, two things can happen. The tires can lose their traction, causing the unit to continue straight ahead and skid off the road, or the tires may keep their traction and cause the vehicle to roll over. Trucks with a high center of gravity can roll over at the posted speed limit for a curve. It’s important for drivers to slow down to a safe speed before entering a curve. Braking in a curve is unsafe because it increases the chance of locking the wheels and causing a skid. Drivers should always adhere to the posted speed limit for the curve.

The length and weight of a truck also impact the odds of a rollover. As the weight of a large truck increases, the odds of a rollover also increase. But the longer the truck, the less likely it is to rollover. 

Each load will change the characteristics of load stabilization for the unit. Drivers should adjust their driving according to their load, not just the road. If they must swerve to avoid a collision, they should not turn any more than needed to clear whatever is in their way. The sharper the turn, the greater the chances of a skid or rollover.

Many times rollovers occur because the driver runs off the road and onto an embankment. The combination of the truck’s inertia, forward momentum and weight of the leaning load make it difficult to drive up an embankment to get back on the road. The motion is often too much for the truck’s stability and it will cause it to rollover. Instead, drivers should bring the truck to a slow, controlled stop and seek assistance from a specialized recovery team to get the truck back on the road. A tow bill is less expensive than a rollover and will cause less damage to the truck. More importantly, it will help save your driver’s life. 

Other factors that can contribute to a rollover include:

  • Driving too fast on slippery roads or tight turns
  • Steering the truck onto soft shoulders
  • Drifting off the road and then abruptly counter-steering to return to the road
  • Being inattentive or distracted while driving
  • Being unaware of changes in the tractor-trailer limitations
  • Carrying an unusually top-heavy load
  • Underinflated tires
  • Poor brake performance
  • Improper cargo distribution or securement
  • Over confidence in the driver’s ability to handle the unit
  • Over confidence in what the truck can handle
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  • Transportation Safety
  • Driving Techniques