In this post, our Missouri truck accident lawyers share information from a US Department of Transportation study. The study tested how stability control systems on tractor trailer trucks work in reducing rollovers for semi-tractor trailers. The study verifies that stability control systems do function, but they can only do so much. Many tractor trailer accidents can still be traced back to driver error.
A major tractor-trailer accident that happened in Missouri last summer is relevant to this discussion. In August 2011, a UPS tractor trailer traveling westbound on I-44 caused the highway to be closed between Stanton and St. Clair for several hours. The driver was pulling tandem trailers and overturned shortly before 8 a.m. One hour later the driver was still trapped, as local firefighters worked to free him from the wreckage. The tractor-trailer accident closed both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of I-44. No other vehicles were involved and the driver, with serious injuries, was taken to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur by helicopter.
According the Missouri State Highway Patrol initial tractor-trailer crash report, the driver was traveling westbound when he left the road on the left side and struck the cable-median barrier; then he reentered the road only to leave it on the left side again where the truck and first trailer then overturned. Reports suggest the driver over-corrected after the leaving the road the first time, which caused the tractor-trailer to leave the road a second time and tip over.
The news is full of tractor trailer accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted an extensive study on tractor semi-trailer roll stability to evaluate stability control systems. NHTSA wanted to assess the latest technology developed in the trucking industry. Vehicle stability control systems attempt to keep a trailer more stable when one or more of the wheels begin to leave the road as occurs during turns, lane changes, swerving, or jack-knife type incidents.
NHTSA cites that tractor trailer accidents continue to happen frequently nationwide. They account for 74% of fatal accidents involving large trucks. And NHTSA has mandated that all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 lbs. or less be equipped with electronic stability control systems by 2012.
While the NHTSA study demonstrated that stability control systems are effective in that they do prevent crashes or reduce the severity of a tractor trailer accident, the bottom line in tractor trailer accidents remains driver error. If a tractor trailer is traveling too fast for road and traffic conditions, no stability control system can overcome the forces of momentum and gravity. The best way to avoid an accident is to travel at safe speeds.
Factors Contributing to Tractor Trailer Rollovers:
• Speed too high to negotiate a curve
• Sudden steering maneuvers to avoid a crash, such as a sudden lane change or over-correcting maneuvers
• Braking maneuvers such as locking up the rear wheels
• Loading conditions such as a shifted load, off-center loading, or too high center of gravity
• Road surface conditions such as improperly judging the condition of the road surface
• Road design configuration as in misjudging the angle of a curve or ramp and going too fast to remain stable
• Vehicle factors such as worn tires, brakes, or other improper vehicle maintenance condition
Whether a driver is compelled to drive for too long or too fast to make delivery requirements by their employers, or in order to compete in the trucking industry, or whether the driver is improperly trained or simply negligent themselves, a tractor trailer accident is serious. Tractor trailer accidents cost everyone involved - and these accidents are all the more tragic when they're totally preventable, and simple steps could've been taken to avoid the collision.
The Missouri truck accident lawyers are familiar with truck industry practices and tractor trailer accident resolution. We have five offices throughout Missouri (Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, Cape Girardeau and Kansas City): call us at 1-888-777-AUTO to schedule a free initial consultation.