Safety Issues



The Truck Operator
The victim was a 22-year-old, male, light-duty tow truck driver.  He had been employed by a towing service company for only a few months but had previous towing experience.  He typically worked an 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift.  The truck he was assigned to was a 2007, six-wheeled, 21 foot flatbed tow truck.  The truck had flatbed controls located on both sides of the truck and a yellow light bar on top of the cab.

The Incident
It was a cold Wednesday afternoon, about 21 degrees Fahrenheit with clear skies.  Recent snow storms had dropped about five feet of snow.  The victim had received a call around 3:00 p.m. to assist a motorist who stopped on the right shoulder of a major interstate with a flat tire.  The paved shoulder was nine feet wide, had a rumble strip, and a white fog line that separated it from the right travel lane.  A metal guardrail was located on the other side of the shoulder.  The highway’s three travel lanes in each direction had a speed limit of 65 miles per hour.  

The victim parked his tow truck in front of the car with the flat tire.  The passenger side of the tow truck was up against the right shoulder guardrail and snow mounds.  The left rear corner of the truck’s bed was within four inches of the white fog line and the right travel lane.  The truck’s yellow flashing lights were activated, including the light bar on top of the truck’s cab.  The victim was wearing an ANSI Class 3 compliant jacket as he started the process of loading the car onto the flatbed.

The Main Findings
While standing on the driver’s side of the truck, he lowered the flatbed down to the roadway.  Vehicles were inches away in the right lane, traveling past him at high rates of speed.  One of these vehicles in the right lane was a box truck traveling behind a larger truck.  The box truck driver reported first seeing the tow truck and car on the shoulder when the larger truck in front of him moved to the middle lane at the last minute.  As the box truck driver was looking to see if he could move over to the left, he felt his truck strike something.  The box truck struck the victim and the tow truck, throwing the victim forward 37 feet into the right-hand travel lane.  


•  Install wireless controls for tow truck beds and winches to minimize the amount of time spent on the traffic side of the truck.
•  Provide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) training to tow operator and other drivers involved in emergency roadway responses.
•  Comply with Move Over Laws; when you see flashing blue, red, or yellow lights move over so there is an open lane between your vehicle and the vehicle with the flashing lights.
•  Drivers of large vehicles should consider taking extra precautions, such as turning on the hazard lights to warn motorists behind them of potential emergencies or unexpected roadway situations ahead.  
•  Drivers experiencing vehicle problems should continue driving, if it is safe to do so, until a location is reached where the vehicle can be moved completely off the roadway and away from traffic. 



Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Occupational Health Surveillance Program

250 Washington Street, 4th Floor

Boston, MA 02108

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, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

This month’s Safety Issues is based on an investigative report from the Massachusetts FACE Program. The complete detailed Massachusetts FACE Investigation Report: #15MA007 includes additional case information, recommendations and discussion. This report can be found at Additional MA FACE Investigation Reports, Annual Reports, Hazard Alerts and other publications can be accessed through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health 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.

The highlighted text is dependent on which State FACE submitted the safety issue, so it will change each month.