Safety Issues


Truck driver troubleshooting trailer brakes crushed when trailer moves

The 59 year-old truck driver in this incident worked for a small business for approximately three years.  He was an experienced driver and had been driving for approximately 30 years.  The business was a contract carrier, employed six truck drivers that traveled interstate and were paid by the miles. 



The driver called his employer to notify him that he was experiencing mechanical problems.  He informed the employer that there was an air leak and the brakes would not release and that he believed the problem was with the truck.  The employer told him to swap the truck at a nearby town.  He replaced the truck and hooked up the trailers. He experienced the same problem after hooking up the load so he believed the problem was the trailer.  He reported to the employer that he was going to troubleshoot the problem. At 2:00 am the driver was found under the driver’s side rear tire of the trailer.  




The owner reported that he talked to the driver at about 1:00 am and the driver mentioned that he was going to do a brake check on the truck and trailer to determine if the new truck had taken care of the issue.  The employer called the driver at 1:20 am, tried several times and the driver did not answer. 

It is unknown exactly what the driver was doing prior to the fatality.  There were no witnesses to the event.  At approximately 1:25 am a 911 call was placed reporting a jack-knifed semi with no one around. The police report indicated that the cab of the semi-truck was inspected and neither the truck brake nor trailer brakes were set and the tractor was in neutral.  According to the State trooper, there was a drag mark approximately 16 inches wide and 80 feet long to where the driver was located under the rear trailer tire.  The sheriff’s report stated that it appeared that he was under the rear of the trailer in the area of the brakes when the vehicle backed over him pinning him under the rear tire.  It traveled 80 feet dragging the driver then jackknifed.  No chocks were observed at the scene and the cab of the truck was parked uphill with the trailer behind.



  • Truck drivers should always set the parking brake before exiting the truck.

  • Place chocks on at least one “drive” wheel on each side of the truck when parked on an incline or when inspecting or troubleshooting tractor and trailers.  

  • Train employees on the hazardous conditions that may result in unexpected movement and how to properly secure the tractor/trailer from movement.


Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Jackson Park Rd, L606
Portland, OR  97239-9878

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 OR-OSHA. Oregon FACE Investigation Reports, Annual Reports, Hazard Alerts and other publications can be accessed through Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences 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.