About a quarter of all cargo tank rollovers involve straight trucks. This includes tankwagons distributing heating oil and other refined fuels and bobtails delivering propane.
A variety of factors contribute to such accidents, and driver error is near the top of the list. Speaking at the National Tank Truck Carriers 2008 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar, Dave Connor, manager of customer service & sales at Stability Dynamics, discussed what his company is doing to promote rollover prevention.
Connor pointed out that many tank truck drivers have a limited understanding of the rollover issue even though they operate vehicles that are vulnerable to these events. Tank truck drivers need a better understanding of rollover contributing factors including radial acceleration, tilt component due to the force of gravity, and lateral acceleration.
“Straight truck drivers need a better understanding of radial acceleration components, including vehicle speed, rate of turn, offset load, and dynamic load,” Connor said. “Drivers also need an understanding of lateral acceleration factors, including radial acceleration and tilt component.
“We need to be proactive in addressing straight truck rollovers because they come with a high cost. We have the potential for serious injury and loss of life, lost productivity, and environmental damage. FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has estimated that the average cost of a straight truck rollover is $80,000.”
If injuries are involved, the cost climbs to nearly $200,000, and a fatality puts the price well above $3 million. The sky is the limit with serious environmental damage depending on where the incident occurs in the United States.
“Drivers, even those with years of experience, often say something like ‘I took the turn a little too fast…or I was definitely over confident,’” Connor said. “The bottom line is rollover prevention takes a lot of training to increase driver awareness.”
Warning devices also can be part of the rollover prevention effort. One option is a lateral acceleration indicator manufactured by Stability Dynamics. These devices can be retrofitted to existing fleet vehicles, and installation takes about an hour.
The devices offer stepped visual and audible warnings when the vehicle is approaching a rollover condition. They can be fitted to any type of straight truck, and they are effective in both on-highway and off-road driving situations.