Tractor Rollovers Are a Serious Problem

Tractor rollovers are an incredibly dangerous problem. However, rollover protective structures (ROPS) can significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries from tractor rollovers. Since tractors are generally very sturdy vehicles, they can last for many, many years. A large number of older tractors are still in use and do not include rollover protective structures. In the mid-1980s, rollover protective structures became standard. For years many manufacturers made rollover protective structures optional. As a result, many purchasers would not elect to purchase the rollover protection. The purchaser would be required to sign a ROPS acknowledgement so the manufacturer could defend itself from any future claim. Unfortunately, these tractors are still on the road.

If a tractor has the rollover protective structure and the driver has fastened his seatbelt, the rate of death and severe injury to the driver drops significantly.

Without the rollover protection structure, the odds of escaping a tractor upset without injury are poor. In the case of a backwards tip, the tractor hood may hit the ground in less than one and a half seconds after the front wheels begin to rise. The truck driver then has less than three quarters of a second to take preventative action. Often it is too late to take preventative action by the time the driver realizes what is happening.

Often rear axle torque causes rear upsets. Usually, when the driver releases the clutch, the axle rotates and the tractor moves forward. However, if the axle rotation is restrained in some manner, the twisting force of the axle may lift the front wheels off the ground, rotating the tractor backwards around the rear axle. If it’s easier for the engine to lift the front tractor wheels than to move the tractor forward, the tractor will flip over backwards. Frequently, rear rollovers occur when the driver tries to move heavy objects. Attaching a chain or cable higher on the rear of the tractor rear can increase the likelihood of the tractor flipping over backwards. The best practice is to hitch heavy loads to the draw bar only. The dangers of hitching above the draw bar are not understood by many people. Drivers should always use a tractor with a rollover protective structure and seatbelt when pulling heavy loads.

Tractors experience side rollovers more often than flipping over backwards. Fortunately, side rollovers are less likely to result in severe injury or death. Side rollovers happen when the center of gravity moves outside of the tractor’s stability base, which is determined by the width of the tractors back wheels and the type of front wheel chassis support. The following are some examples of things that can be done to prevent side rollovers:

· if possible, avoid crossing steep slopes;

· before driving at transport speeds, lock brake pedals together;

· set the wheel tread at its widest setting suitable for the job the driver is doing;

· drive slowly when turning and in slippery conditions; and

· operate the front end loader carefully and maintain the bucket as low as possible.

Even with these precautions, rollovers can happen. Thus, the best way to prevent injury or death from tractor rollover is to employ a rollover protective structure and use the seatbelt. For side rollovers, ROPS will usually limit the tractor to a ninety degree roll. If you would like more information on this subject, contact Boyd Newton, an Atlanta Truck Wreck Attorney.