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thumbnail of tanker rollovers posterAs every successful risk manager knows, you need reliable data to effectively prevent incidents. But it can be hard to make good decisions when you rely on bad information that “everybody knows.” 

If you ever had a nosebleed as a kid, you may have been told to tip your head back. Some people put butter on a minor burn because they believe it speeds up the healing process. Medical professionals don’t actually recommend either of these first aid “tips,” but they’re still widely practiced.

Since tanker rollovers are much more serious than a nosebleed (to put it mildly), it’s important to know what really causes rollovers - based on DOT crash stats and analysis. If you think cargo tanker rollovers are caused by:

  • Drivers pushing the speed limit
  • Bad weather
  • Twisty roads
  • or the actions of other drivers,

…. think again!

Tanker Rollovers Prevention: What Crash Stats Can Teach Us

So...what really causes tanker truck rollovers? 

  • It’s not bad weather - 93 percent of rollovers occur on dry roads
  • It’s not other drivers - fewer than 1 in 5 rollovers are caused by the actions of another driver 
  • It’s not truck drivers pushing the speed limit 
    • In 67 percent of incidents, the vehicle was traveling below the posted speed limit
    • In 18 percent of rollovers, the vehicle was going the speed limit


Here’s a hint: 80 percent of rollovers involved tankers “traveling straight as a last pre-crash movement” and the number of rollovers on straight roads has increased since 2007. Hmmm, what plays an enormous role in our lives now that barely existed in 2007? 

If you guessed distracted driving, congratulations! DOT researchers noted distracted driving as a primary reason the number of tanker rollovers on straight roadways increased significantly. (In case you’re curious, the first iPhone went on sale June 29th, 2007.)

Taken together, these stats make a lot of sense. Tanker drivers are experienced and knowledgeable. They’re not going to speed or take chances in bad weather. 


tanker rollover Prevention: Distractions

According to the FMCSA, in 90 percent of rollover incidents, the rollover is not the first event. In other words, some other action triggers an event that causes rollover. 

A straight, dry road is the “ideal” environment for distractions. Smartphones and technology aren’t the only culprits. Common distractions also include: 

  • Eating or drinking
  • Cleaning up a spill
  • Fixating on an earlier argument with a dispatcher or customer
  • Paperwork
  • Looking for something

Split-second distractions cause even elite tanker drivers to lose focus. In that instant, the trailer wheels can drift off the roadway and pull the truck into a rollover — especially if the tank is only partially full. About 63 percent of rollovers involve tankers carrying partial loads.

Drowsiness is another type of distraction. Studies have shown drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving (and much more common). If a tanker driver dozes off behind the wheel, they can veer off the roadway and rollover or wake up suddenly then overcorrect (causing a rollover). 

SOURCES: FMCSA cargo tank rollover fact sheet, DOT cargo tanker rollover incident report.


Tanker Rollover Prevention Tips - Free Poster

Understanding the true cause of tanker rollovers is an important step toward incident prevention. Download this free infographic with rollover prevention tips and stats you can share with your drivers, or print it out and use it as a poster.

thumbnail of tanker rollovers poster

Get the FREE Poster


How leading fleets prevent tanker Rollovers


Sharing safety information is always a good idea, but only safety training is proven to reduce catastrophic incidents. 

According to the FMCSA: watching a video yields a higher retention rate than just reading or hearing about why rollovers occur. That’s why ITI’s online driver training is packed with videos depicting real-world scenarios. Clear and concise narration reinforces safety best practices and periodic quizzes ensure mastery.

ITI’s online training (PRO-TREAD™) is trusted by leading tankers fleets including: A&R, Eagle Transport Corp, Apex Bulk, and Pilot Flying J.

PRO-TREAD is the industry's most respected online truck driver safety training; it’s advanced enough to keep the attention of million-mile drivers, and basic enough for new drivers, too.


Superior Training Delivers Proven Results

Exceed your safety goals and drive down expenses associated with incidents and violations. Get started by requesting an online demo, or connecting with a training consultant by phone (360-576-5976, option 4). We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about online training, custom training, or problems you’d like to solve.

Schedule an ITI Training Demo

Further Reading:
A One-Year Training Plan for Your Hazmat Tanker Drivers
How Training Helps Retain Hazmat Tanker Drivers
Online Training for Hazmat and Tanker Truck Drivers (overview)

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