Truck Clips Slowed Car, Infant Lifelined to Hospital

How the Incident Occurred

In need of a driver, the owner of a manufacturing firm asked the father of the regular route driver if he would complete a straight truck delivery. The father hadn’t driven commercially for two years since his retirement from the firm. With the truck fully loaded with auto parts he began. The first two hours of driving were in light traffic on rural two-lane highways when he came upon a passenger vehicle up ahead slowing to turn left. The car then came to a full stop for oncoming traffic. Realizing that he could not stop in time, the truck driver swerved to the right to avoid hitting the car but the left front of the truck clipped the right rear of the stopped car causing it to spin counter-clockwise into the path of an oncoming pickup truck. The pickup collided with the driver side of the passenger vehicle as the truck driver pulled to a stop on the right side of the road.

Injury/Damage Information

  • Infant occupant in passenger vehicle riding in an approved child car seat was transported via lifeline for emergency treatment of head and neck injuries. Rehabilitation was in excess of 18 months. The infant’s father and mother were treated and released for minor injuries. The passenger vehicle was totaled.
  • Damages to the late model pickup truck - $6,000; driver uninjured
  • Damage to the company straight truck - $2,000; truck driver uninjured
  • No damage to the load although company was penalized for late delivery

Compliance

Law enforcement on the scene found no probable cause for D&A testing of the drivers of any of the three vehicles. However it was revealed that the truck driver’s CDL had an air-brake restriction and was found not in compliance with 383.23(a) because the truck had airbrakes. The company owner was not fully knowledgeable in DOT regulatory matters (382.303) and thought he must drug test the driver. He did so within 4 hours at the local clinic with the results being negative. However during a subsequent DOT compliance review it was ruled that the company had failed to conduct pre-employment drug testing (382.301) and was fined anyway. DOT allows 30 days to complete Investigation and Inquiries of new drivers (391.23) so the owner ran a driving record the day after the collision only to find that it listed two prior speeding violations in the past 18 months, one of which was for reckless driving in a construction zone. During the DOT compliance review, the owner produced the original Driver Qualification File. Since the file was missing the previous two Annual Reviews and Driving Records (391.25 & 27), the company was found not in compliance with 391.51(a). Low overall "fleet" mileage caused a high accident factor and, combined with an Unsatisfactory Operations factor resulted in an overall company safety rating of Unsatisfactory. The company’s main customer was a government manufacturer and therefore the company became an ineligible supplier due to the safety rating. They were forced to being shipping their product via a common carrier. The entire event lasted over two years and the added cost of delivery and idle equipment was over a quarter of a million dollars until the company could finally be re-rated by DOT and resume delivering their own product.

Causative factors

Root cause analysis determined that the company was ultimately at fault for not placing safety precautions at the forefront of all activities. Their perceived need to have the load delivered superseded the real need to have all loads delivered Safely!

Equipment Factors:

  • The company had replaced trucks subsequent to the father’s retirement.
  • Truck was fully loaded and the airbrakes were functioning properly.
  • Truck tires were in good condition; 6/32 rear and 7/32 front.
  • The regular driver post-trip inspection reports showed no defects.
  • Passenger car’s left turn lamps and brake lights were operating properly.

Environmental Factors:

  • Weather was clear. Road surface was dry asphalt.
  • Dangerous left-hand turn off of two-lane road was site of two prior collisions
  • Truck and car were travelling east in early evening.
  • Setting sunlight might have slightly obscured turn signal/brake lights on car.
  • Sunlight might have obscured vision of oncoming pickup truck driver.

Employee Factors:

  • Truck driver was not given orientation on newer vehicle.
  • Truck driver had improper license for type of equipment operated (airbrakes).
  • Truck driver was not asked about his driving history since retiring.
  • Company had not set standards for acceptable driving performance.
  • Company mission statement; "Our customer’s needs are our highest priority!"
  • The owner’s primary duties included acting as the operations manager.

Remedial actions

Safety is a leadership function and must start at the top. Ownership must be well-versed in the need for effective management of all aspects of safety, health and security in order for an operation to run efficiently and smoothly.

Mission statement must include "Safety" as a primary element. Communicate the message throughout the organization. Establish performance and accountability standards for employees, supervisors and managers and measure for compliance.

If there’s "no time for safety" then it’s time to take an internal look at the reasons "Why". Outsource an analysis and action plan development project to a competent third party that is knowledgeable in the type of risks inherent with the operation – and follow their advice!