Safety Issues



The semi-truck driver was a foreign born 27 year old with a wife eight months pregnant and a four-year-old son.  It is unknown how long he had been driving for the foreign owned company that has been in operation since April 10, 2007.   


In the early morning hours of a fall day, exact time unknown and the length of driving time unknown, the driver was driving north on an interstate transporting 30,000 lbs. of blue plastic injection molding pellets.  The truck driver exited the highway behind a guardrail and travelled 1, 320 feet, striking a wire fence and several trees before plummeting into a creek bed, shearing the cab open.  At 10:27 a.m., a citizen called the fire department to report a mysterious blue substance observed in the creek a couple of miles down from the accident.  The fire department arrived on scene, followed the creek and found the semi in the creek.  The driver was extricated by mechanical means by the fire department and declared dead at the scene by the coroner’s office. 


The driver was traveling north on a four lane interstate highway, in the early morning hours.  Traffic was light and the roads were wet from rain.  The speed limit in the area was 70 MPH.  The driver had picked up his load 336 miles south and was heading north for a total length of 678 miles on his trip.  Drive time to his destination was a total of eleven hours and 10 minutes. The driver was halfway to his destination when the semi-truck left the roadway for unknown reasons.


The tractor trailer exited the roadway on the right side of the interstate, traveled down a culvert and through a wire fence taking down trees before nose-diving into a creek.  From where the semi-truck left the interstate, it was approximately 1,320 feet to the creek bed.  There were no skid marks or brake marks on the pavement prior to leaving the interstate lane.  The force of the collision caused the fifth wheel to rip away from the tractor but remained on the trailer as the trailer came up over the cab.  The driver became trapped in the semi-tractor.   There were no other motorists who witnessed the crash. 


A citizen who lived along the creek called the fire department to report a mysterious blue substance in the downstream area of the creek at 10:27 a.m.  Firefighters arrived on the scene at 10:35 a.m.  They walked and traced the creek to where the substance had been reported, and discovered the trapped body of the 28-year-old driver.  According to firefighters, the 28-year-old had been dead for several hours.  The jaws of life were used to remove his body, which was transported to the coroner’s office where an autopsy was performed.  The autopsy revealed that the 28-year-old died of multiple blunt force trauma.  The autopsy did not reveal any presence of drugs in the driver’s system or any medical condition that would have caused him to lose consciousness.


The driver exited the interstate and curved area, just inches before a guardrail system was installed. There were no vehicular factors detected and no environmental factors detected.  The human factor in this crash was “not under proper control”.  No avoidance maneuver was reported and the driver’s speed was unknown.   The driver was wearing his seat belt.  Airbags were installed but not deployed.  The airbags switch was off.  Due to the absence of skid marks on the highway, it is possible the driver was distracted or fell asleep; the exact root cause could not be determined.  



  • Semi tractor-trailer drivers should routinely receive refresher training to recognize the signs of fatigue and drowsiness and when to seek appropriate rest periods.

  • Never turn off your airbags while driving a tractor-trailer.

  • Motor carriers need to monitor their drivers’ driving records for key violations that indicate a future crash is likely.

  • Motor carriers should consider regular online safety training that allows drivers the flexibility to complete course(s) at times convenient to their busy schedules. 

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Safety Issues is presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Truckers Association (NTA), with major contributions from State partners funded by NIOSH through the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program.  The goal of the FACE Program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then developing and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. State partners who contribute Safety Issues postings based on recent investigative reports are California, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington.

This month’s Safety Issues is based on an investigative report from the Kentucky FACE Program. The complete detailed Kentucky FACE INVESTIGATION REPORT:  #13KY046 includes additional case information, recommendations and discussion. This report can be found at Additional KY-FACE Investigation Reports, Annual Reports, Hazard Alerts and other publications can be accessed through the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center at

The Safety Issues and Investigation Reports which are the products of NIOSH Cooperative State partners are presented here in their original unedited form from the states. They are intended for educational purposes only. The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the NIOSH.