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The causes of tanker truck rollover accidents

Semi-trucks hauling containers of gasoline, flammable gas or crude oil are not an uncommon sight on California's highways, and they are generally given a wide berth by passenger vehicle drivers. While the vast majority of these commercial vehicles arrive safely at their destinations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that over 1,300 such vehicles are involved in rollover accidents every year. These can rupture cargo tanks and lead to dangerous chemical and fuel spills.

This kind of commercial vehicle accident is sometimes blamed on reckless truck drivers who lose control of their vehicles after taking a sharp turn too quickly, but the statistics tell a different story. More than half of all cargo tank rollover accidents take place on a straight section of road, and speed is only discovered to have played a role about 50 percent of the time. Driver inexperience may also be suspected after a rollover accident, but the FMCSA reports that about two thirds of the truck drivers involved in these accidents each year have 10 or more years experience behind the wheel.

According to the FMCSA, driver error is a major cause of rollover accidents involving trucks hauling hazardous materials. Accident investigators looking into rollover accidents discover driver error more than three quarters of the time, and the rollover occurs after an earlier incident, such as a truck driver being distracted, in more than 90 percent of cases.

The FMCSA accident data also reveals that poor maintenance may play a significant role in this type of accident. The agency says that more than half of the trucks involved in a rollover accident each year are found to have defective brakes. Logistics companies have a duty of care toward other road users, and a personal injury attorney may file a lawsuit against them when an accident is caused by poor maintenance, inadequate driver training or lax supervision.

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