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NTSB Recommends Rollover Protection for Tanker Trucks

Rollover and stability protection for the nation's tanker trailers has been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  The NTSB is involved primarily in investigating transportation accidents and does not have the authority to issue regulations on its own. However, it does make recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that does regulate interstate carriers. The NTSB has recommended that all tank trailers weighing more than 10,000 pounds be retrofitted with a rollover-stability control system.

NTSB Has Been Concerned About Tanker Rollovers for More Than 40 Years

"There are more than 1,300 rollovers a year involving cargo tank motor vehicles," said NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman. "These accidents pose a significant safety risk to both the vehicle driver and to the motoring public. The NTSB has been concerned about the integrity of cargo tanks carrying hazardous materials from more than 40 years."

Indianapolis Rollover and Fire Renews Calls for Stability Systems

A tractor pulling a tanker unit carrying 9,001 pounds of liquefied petroleum gas provided a recent example of what can happen without rollover protection. On Oct. 22, 2009, a tractor tanker unit was making a left turn on a connection ramp between Interstate 69 and Interstate 465. While in the right lane, the trucker realized he was encroaching on the adjacent left traffic lane. He oversteered to the right, onto the shoulder, and then oversteered to the left to get back into the right traffic lane. The sudden maneuvers caused the tank trailer to rollover, detach from the truck, slide into an overpass abutment, and displace part of the overpass. The liquefied petroleum gas escaped, formed a vapor cloud, and ignited. Five people were injured due to the collision and the post-accident fire.

Rollovers Hard to Prevent

Loaded tanker trucks have little room for error, and driver training is ineffective according to the NTSB. Although stability systems will not prevent all rollover accidents, they are expected to lower the number of rollovers, as well as identify further ways for drivers and trucking companies to prevent these accidents. The NTSB noted that a stability control system on the unit involved in the Indianapolis accident might have prevented the incident.