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Why Do Truck Rollover Accidents Happen?

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Posted By Legal Team | November 14 2023 | Truck Accidents

The aftermath of a large, commercial truck accident is always chaotic and terrifying, especially when the accident results in severe or catastrophic injuries. However, experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyers know that no accident scene is as devastating as those involving large commercial truck rollovers. Compared to traditional passenger vehicles, tractor-trailer trucks have a higher likelihood of rollovers in accidents. Not only do truck rollovers cause an increased chance of serious injuries, but they also cause spilled cargo, challenging and lengthy cleanups, and extended disruption to traffic flow.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), commercial truck rollovers are those involving the cab and/or trailer of the truck turning over in an accident—including those that roll multiple times. In their “Keep the Load on the Road” campaign, the FMCSA acknowledges the critical importance of knowing the causes of rollover accidents so truck drivers can avoid them.

High Center of Gravity and Decreased Stability in Commercial Trucks

A vehicle’s center of gravity is the section where the weight is equal on both sides. Compared to standard passenger vehicles, large commercial trucks have high cabs and trailers, resulting in a higher center of gravity and increased instability. Trucks with both a high center of gravity and a narrow track width have the highest likelihood of rollovers.

The higher a vehicle’s center of gravity, the more likely it is to tip over when tilted. Research models show that a truck is more likely to tip and roll over if a vertical line drawn through its center of gravity falls outside of the vehicle’s base.

How Does Truck Instability Contribute to Rollover Accidents?

When freight loaders load a truck’s trailer, the center of gravity moves higher as the cargo raises the section of the truck where weight is equal on both sides. When fully loaded, a tractor-trailer truck has a higher center of gravity than any other vehicle on the road.

Our experienced truck accident attorneys in Atlanta have seen the most common cause of commercial truck rollover accidents is a driver taking a curve in the road too quickly, but other factors also increase the likelihood of a rollover accident.

Common Causes of Truck Rollovers

When a truck makes a turn to follow a curve in the road, centrifugal force makes the truck lean away from the curve’s direction. The faster the truck’s speed, the more likely it is to tip over due to the force of the truck’s lean in the opposite direction. Without a counterweight, a truck taking a curve too fast causes it to shift onto the tires on one side, sometimes tipping rather than righting itself. Other causes of truck rollover accidents include:

  • Unbalanced loads
  • Unsecured and shifting loads
  • Speeding—including around curves or when making turns
  • Inattentive driving resulting in last-moment turns
  • Over-correction of an error
  • Improper braking
  • Tire blowouts
  • Steering malfunctions
  • Brake malfunctions
  • Uneven road surfaces causing one side of the truck to drop 
  • Under-inflated tires

Driver error is the most common cause of truck accidents, including rollovers, but poorly maintained trucks and defective truck parts also contribute to rollover accident numbers.

Preventing Truck Rollover Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration warns that inattentive driving is the main cause of truck rollovers. By increasing alertness, checking load balance, and performing routine maintenance checks, truck rollover accidents significantly decrease.

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