How and Why Do Commercial Truck Rollovers Happen?

In the United States in 2021, roughly 4,100 people were killed in accidents involving commercial trucks. In 2018, a total of 5,025 commercial truck accidents took place nationwide, 3.8% of which happened in Virginia. 101 of those accidents resulted in at least one death and another 2,036 resulted in injuries. Since they are some of the biggest vehicles on the road, accidents involving oversized commercial trucks pose a very real danger to the occupants of smaller, standard vehicles. While most cars weigh somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds, a tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Their immense size can lead to collisions that span multiple lanes of traffic. They also sit far above other vehicles, making it possible for other cars, smaller trucks, and motorcycles to get trapped underneath.

Why are commercial trucks likely to overturn during an accident?

If you are injured in a trucking accident, the injuries you sustain, such as brain injuries and spinal injuries, can be irrevocably catastrophic and have an impact on the rest of your life. You might require ongoing medical care and never again be able to return to the job you once held.  

At the personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, our Virginia commercial truck accident attorneys have been successfully handling trucking accident cases for over four decades. Give our offices a call to schedule your free, confidential case review today. 

How Common Are Commercial Truck Rollovers?

A recent national study has indicated that about 9% of commercial trucking accidents involve rollovers. As a vehicle’s height increases, so does its center of gravity. When a vehicle has a high center of gravity, its odds of a rollover increase exponentially. Commercial trucks have a higher center of gravity than almost any other vehicle on the roadway.

Causes of Rollovers

The two leading causes of truck rollovers in Virginia are:


In one recent year, speeding was the cause on record in 45% of all commercial truck rollovers. Studies have shown, however, that excessive speed is not as much of a contributing factor as driving too fast for current road or weather conditions. 

Accidents occur most frequently when truck operators take sharp bends in the road, such as highway entrance and exit ramps, at a high rate of speed. Another frequent cause of truck rollovers is speeding combined with vehicle instability caused by the truck’s payload being improperly distributed. Depending on the weight of a truck’s cargo, the vehicle’s top safe speed will decrease and its safe stopping distance will increase.  

The third most common speeding-related rollover is a truck operator’s failure to adjust their handling of the vehicle for known brake issues.

Driver Fatigue

33% of all truck rollovers are due to driver fatigue, such as falling asleep behind the wheel.

Fatigued driving is a potential problem for the operator of any type of vehicle. Sadly, truck operators are at an increased risk of fatigued driving.  The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration imposes an 11-hour driving limit on all drivers following 10 consecutive hours off. Even with this rule in place, 11 straight hours of driving is more than enough to cause driver fatigue. 

The FMCSA’s regulations also do not allow drivers to drive for more than 14 consecutive hours under any circumstances. Some freight companies, however, schedule delivery deadlines that make it virtually impossible for a driver to get the required amount of rest. So, in spite of these regulations, there is no guarantee that an overly tired truck operator is not behind the wheel.  

Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp 

Virginia driving laws adhere to a standard fault-based system when it comes to assigning liability for an accident. The liable party is responsible for financially compensating victims for any damages they sustained during the accident, including hospital expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. 

If you have questions regarding an accident involving a commercial truck rollover, reach out to an experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp for a free review of your potential claim at (833) 997-1774. 

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