The National Academies

HMCRP HM-13 [Final]

Role of Human Factors in Preventing Cargo Tank Truck Rollovers

  Project Data
Funds: $200,000
Research Agency: Battelle
Principal Investigator: Douglas Pape
Effective Date: 10/26/2010
Completion Date: 1/24/2012
Comments: Published as HMCRP Report 7

While the cargo tank truck industry has one of the best safety records in the trucking industry, cargo tank rollovers remain a concern. In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the Cargo Tank Roll Stability Study, which identified four possible approaches to reducing cargo tank truck rollovers:
  1. Driver training
  2. Electronic stability aids
  3. Tank truck vehicle design improvement
  4. Highway design improvement
Several major sources of crash data were reviewed in the study to quantify cargo tank rollover issues. These sources identified “driver error” as the most significant cause of cargo tank truck rollovers.  The Cargo Tank Roll Stability Study categorized all driver-related findings under the “driver training” heading. While training is a key factor, it has been suggested that other factors in the driver’s environment could contribute to a rollover, because even experienced drivers have rollovers. Further research into the “why” of driver-caused rollovers could help answer such questions as: Why is driver error the main cause of three-quarters of cargo tank truck rollovers? What guidance could be developed to help mitigate driver error as a cause of cargo tank truck rollovers? What actions have carriers taken to reduce driver-caused rollovers and how can those actions be shared with the industry?  Are there lessons to be learned from other industries or countries? To aid in crash reduction, further root cause investigation, coupled with identifying best driver safety, management, and communication practices, could present an efficient approach to reducing driver errors because it can accelerate improvements by eliminating the trial and error process in countermeasure development.
The objectives of this research are to (1) identify and analyze the root causes of the major driver factors contributing to cargo tank truck rollovers and (2) determine best safety, management, and communication practices that can be used to minimize or eliminate driver errors in cargo tank truck operations.
(1). Review U.S. cargo tank truck rollover crash experience from 2007-2009 to determine the root causes (e.g., weather conditions, road type, fatigue, speeding) of driver errors and identify the top factors in the crashes.  This task should include a review of HMCRP Report 1: Hazardous Materials Transportation Incident Data for Root Cause Analysis.  (2). Identify other direct or indirect influences (e.g., corporate safety culture, driver's personal lifestyle) on drivers that could cause cargo tank truck rollovers. (3). Identify best safety, management, and communication practices that can be used to minimize or eliminate driver errors in the cargo tank truck industry.(4). Identify other industry and international best practices that could be used to minimize or eliminate driver errors in the cargo tank truck industry.
(5). Identify 8 to 10 potential case studies, and a brief rationale for choosing them, that illustrate the application of best safety, management, and communication practices to enable drivers to prevent cargo tank truck rollover crashes.  The case studies should span different geographic locations and cargo tank truck industry segments.  The panel will select 5 case studies for in-depth analysis in Task 8.(6). Six months after contract approval, prepare an interim report that provides the results of Tasks 1 through 5. (7). Conduct a webinar with the project panel to discuss the interim report.(8). Conduct the panel-approved case studies, using readily available information as verified through industry interviews. The case studies should be 10 to 12 pages in length and discuss the applicability, outcomes, benefits, challenges, and implications of applying the selected best practices. Also, discuss the safety, management, and communication performance measures and metrics used. (9). Prepare a final report that identifies and evaluates examples of the best safety, management, and communication practices that can be used to minimize or eliminate driver errors in the cargo tank truck industry.

: Published as HMCRP Report 7.  The report is also available electronically at

be http://www.trb.org/main/blurbs/167519.aspx and the Appendices are available at



To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=2931