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Rehearsing for a rollover

One of the many fears truck drivers must face in their daily lives is the potential for a rollover accident – an event most drivers, of course, hope never happens to them or their fellow big rig operators.

The reason is pretty simple: a truck driver’s chances of getting killed in a rollover can be fairly high. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approximately two-thirds of all heavy truck occupant fatalities occur in rollover crashes. On top of that, heavy vehicle loss-of-control and rollover crashes are also a major cause of traffic tie-ups, resulting in millions of dollars of lost productivity and excess energy consumption each year.

One of the more frightening scenarios for truck drivers in a rollover crash is that they survive yet are rendered incapacitated by the event, unable to exit the vehicle.

This is an even more pertinent concern in the military, particularly for troops loaded up with gear and crammed into Humvees; slang for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or “HMMWV” (which morphed into “Humvee”) that replaced the venerable jeep in 1979.

To improve the chances of soldiers surviving Humvee rollovers, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps both designed what’s called a Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer or “HEAT” course that includes a full-scale Humvee simulator (seen at left, with Sgt. Heley Brown at the controls) that can be inverted any number of ways.

Lance Cpl. Shannon Kroening recently chronicled how Marines from the 2nd Supply Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, went through the HEAT course earlier this month, first sitting through a class showing them how the handling of Humvees during combat operations can lead to rollovers, hen being taught different techniques on how to safely egress from an overturned Humvee both with and without casualties.

Then they geared up in groups of four to represent a fire-team, donning safety goggles, training rifles, knee pads and elbow pads before entering the HEAT simulator.

When given the all clear, Sgt. Brown – one of the course trainers – began to flip the riders within the HEAT starting at 40 degrees, then 90 degree, and ending at 180 degrees before beginning a random set of revolutions which would ultimately bring the simulator upside down.

“It felt like being on a carnival ride or the laundry in a washing machine, but at the same time I took it seriously because learning how to protect myself could one day save my life,” noted Pfc. Kelsey Marion, an ammunition technician with Combat Logistics Regiment 25.

Once the revolutions ceased, trainees had to egress from the vehicle and then take what’s known as a “360 degree security posture,” while accounting for each team member.

“Hopefully what the Marines took from this will help them save lives, and reminds them to never underestimate a Humvee because they can be just as dangerous and lethal as a bullet from a hostile,” noted Sgt. Brown. “They need to know how to react in the case of a rollover.”

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