Stability of semitrailer tanker trucks with high and shifting centers of gravity is a significant issue in tanker truck accident cases.
Now the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended for commercial vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight:
– that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require retrofitting of stability-control systems on tanker rigs; and
– that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop stability control system performance standards for all commercial motor vehicles and buses, and require installation of stability control systems on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles.
These recommendations arise from the NTSB investigation of a fiery crash nine months ago in Indianapolis, in which a propane tanker trunk rolled over due to oversteering on an exit ramp. The tank ruptured, allowing gas to escape and exploded. Drivers of the truck and a passenger vehicle were seriously injured.
In my trucking accident litigation experience, I have found that tanker truck drivers often operate under extreme stress due to the knowledge that their rigs could easily explode in an accident, causing death or serious injury. In litigating one case, I learned that one tanker truck line that delivers gasoline to service stations in Georgia carries “peasant life insurance” payable to the company in the event that one of its drivers is killed in an explosion. That happens about once a year.
I have also found tanker truck drivers who are inadequately trained about the handling characteristics of tanks with a high and shifting center of gravity. This is particularly common in the concrete industry, where companies may hire drivers who just have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with no training about the speed at which a tanker or concrete mixer truck will roll over in a turn.
Ken Shigley is president of the 42,250 member State Bar of Georgia, a Certified Civil Trial Attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine) and among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend). He is a national board member of the Commercial Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice and a former chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute.