Truck rollovers are a common cause of trucking accidents and due to the size and weight of trucks these accidents tend to cause a lot of damage and injury. Rollovers involving large trucks can cause damage, fatalities, and personal injuries. What is especially devastating about these types of accidents is that most of them can be prevented.
Most engineers and experts agree that the major problem with rollovers is that they happen very quickly – usually before a truck driver has a chance to react. Many drivers are close to the point of rollover and do not even know it. In fact, according to some safety experts, the safety margin in these situations is quite small.
The first step to preventing rollover accidents is to identify what causes them. There are two forces working on a truck: those working to keep the truck upright and those working to push the truck over (these are called lateral acceleration). When lateral acceleration gets too great, a rollover occurs. Engineers and experts measure rollover risks in terms of something called rollover threshold (RT). The RT refers to the maximum amount of lateral acceleration that can be withstood by particular vehicle before it rolls over. For a passenger car, the RT is 1.3. For a tri axle trailer and tractor that is fully loaded, the RT can be 0.28.
Many things can cause a truck to surpass its RT and rollover:
1) The center of gravity of the truck. Usually, this is affected by the loading process and the materials in a truck. A truck that is heavily loaded and has a very high center of gravity is more likely to roll over. As well, the amount of space between tires can also impact the RT of a truck – where tires are closer together, the truck is more likely to roll over.
2) Speed and turns. A truck that is speeding is far more likely to rollover, since fast speeds can affect lateral acceleration. The sharpness of turns and even the tilt of a roadway can also contribute to rollovers.
3) Trailers. Tractor trailers are more likely to be in rollover situations because there is a difference in rollover risk for the tractor and the trailer. When a driver is making a turn, he or she can usually feel the correct speed for the tractor. However, the trailer is attached to the cab or tractor and its lateral acceleration may be different. If a driver mistakenly takes a turn a little too fast and sharp, this can cause the trailer to rollover, which can in turn cause the tractor or cab to roll as well.
Obviously, awareness of RT and lateral acceleration is crucial in stopping truck accidents. Reducing speeds and taking turns gradually can help prevent many accidents. Proper driver training is also a must in helping drivers understand how to drive safely.