Every day, tractor-trailers move hundreds of thousands of shipments of good and materials throughout the country. In California, as in other states, many of these trucks travel with shipments of materials that can be dangerous, such as crude oil, gasoline and various kinds of chemicals. While most such shipments get to their destination without incident, some do not.
The trucking industry typically uses cargo tanks to secure and transport dangerous materials. However, according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 1,300 cargo tank rollovers occur each year. Cargo tank rollovers pose unique problems because the dangerous materials inside of them can cause injury and death to anyone in the area, in addition to property and environmental damage.
The FMCSA has also dispelled some myths about how these cargo tank rollovers usually occur. Truck drivers and other people might assume that poor driving conditions are a major culprit behind these rollover accidents. According to the FMCSA, however, that is not necessarily true. More than half of these truck accidents happen on straight roads, and 93 percent of them occur when the road is dry. Moreover, roughly 66 percent of cargo tank rollovers happen during daylight hours.
As opposed to being caused by difficult driving conditions, the vast majority of rollover accidents — about 78 percent — involve driver error. For example, truck driver fatigue or drowsiness, along with distracted truck drivers, account for about 20 percent of all cargo tank rollovers. Equipment problems, like brake defects, can also contribute to rollover accidents.
Like other kinds of accidents, cargo tank rollovers occur too often — about four per day based on the FMCSA data. When a driver, or the truck itself, is not up to the task of transporting a heavy load of dangerous materials, it can lead to a fatal truck accident. Drivers and truck companies are responsible not just for their own safety, but also for the safety of other drivers who share the roadways with their trucks.
Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Cargo Tank Rollover Fact Sheet,” June 11, 2015