Road Rage


DATE: 03/31/2010


REFERENCE: Driver Fatigue Quiz


How the Incident Occurred

The driver only had one more trip to make that day to get his quota in and head for home. As he entered town, he saw a pick-up waiting to pull out of a driveway. Because he was in a hurry he failed to exercise caution and slow down in anticipation of the driver pulling in front of him. As a consequence, when the pick-up driver pulled out, the truck driver was forced to slam on his brakes, almost jack-knifing as he avoided the collision. Angered by the action of the pick-up driver, the truck driver began to tailgate the pick-up and continued to do so as they left town. Through several turns and stop signs, the truck driver stayed on the pick-up’s bumper, often following within mere feet of the vehicle.

As the two vehicles turned onto a dirt road leading to the coal mine where the truck driver was picking up his load, the pick-up suddenly stopped. The truck driver, unable to stop in time, swerved, but still hit the pick-up in the left corner, rotating it and knocking it into a ditch. The tractor-trailer then continued across the road, and after hitting several trees, overturned. It was later determined that the pick-up truck driver was the mine superintendant who had been stopping to check on a mine safety issue that he had noted while driving.

Injury/Damage Information

As a result of the collision, the pick-up driver sustained severe closed head injuries and was hospitalized for several months. The injuries were permanent and prevented his returning to work. The truck driver was unhurt, but his tractor and trailer were damaged beyond repair.

Causative factors

Investigation revealed that the truck driver had been up most of the previous night caring for his wife who had the flu. On the day of the collision, he had already been on duty for 9 hours and was making his last run of the day. As a result of the lack of sleep and accumulated fatigue, he was short tempered and was unduly affected by the actions of the pick-up truck.

The above information, revealed during the police investigation resulted in criminal charges being brought against the truck driver. In addition, a civil suit was filed by the mine superintendent and the trucking company ended up paying well over 3 million dollars to compensate him for his injuries.

The truck driver was not remiss in caring for his wife. However, as a professional, he had an obligation to either take the day off or to take fewer loads and shorten his day.

As a professional, he also had an obligation to recognize that he was reacting inappropriately and realize that his fatigue was causing him to operate in an unsafe manner. Regardless of how inappropriate the actions of the pick-up driver were when he pulled out in front of the truck, the truck driver had to remember that he was the professional and act accordingly.

The company had never discussed fatigue or attitude in their safety meetings. As a consequence, the driver had never received any training that could have assisted him in coping with his condition. As a consequence, he had no knowledge of the company policy, and no tools to help him recognize the symptoms that would have alerted him to the fact that it was becoming unsafe for him to operate on the highways.

Remedial actions

Train your drivers on the symptoms of fatigue. Reinforce the need to operate as a defensive and professional driver at all times. Clearly define your policies on fatigue, aggressive driving, and continuing commitment to professionalism. Finally, teach your drivers to use proper following distances and remind them that maintaining such a safety cushion is dependent on their mental attitude.