Safety Issues


Truck Driver Hauling Grain Dies When Truck Crashes

The Truck Driver  

The 55-year-old driver of a grain truck was employed to help during the harvest of wheat on a family member’s farm. He had over 25 years’ experience driving commercial vehicles. For the previous three weeks, he had been working 10 to 11 hours per day, 6 days per week. The tandem-axle grain truck he was driving was manufactured in 1988. It was purchased the previous year by his employer.

The Incident  

The day of the incident was going to be the driver’s last before he went on vacation. He was on the way to a nearby town to make a delivery to a grain elevator. He had made many trips with full loads to this elevator, including one earlier in the day.

He was driving a tandem-axle grain truck pulling a pup trailer, both fully loaded with wheat. This vehicle was used only during the harvest. According to the employer, the truck had been checked and everything was working properly before being put into service.

He was driving along a state highway carrying approximately 60,000 lbs of wheat. As he started down a long hill on the outskirts of town, the brakes were insufficient to slow the truck’s descent. He used the Jake brake, downshifted, and applied what little brakes he had to try to slow down the truck. A witness estimated that the truck was traveling at about 50 mph as it entered the town. The truck left the road, entered a dirt-covered lot and then crashed into the grain elevator’s scale house where he was to make his delivery. He died at the scene.


The Investigation 

An investigation determined that:

1. The brakes had been in disrepair for some time. Out of twelve brakes, only four were working properly.

2. As the driver downshifted while descending the hill he likely missed a gear and was unable to get the transmission back into gear; this caused the truck to gather speed.

3. The four remaining functional brakes were not sufficient to stop the truck.



•  Regularly check to ensure that all braking systems on trucks and trailers are operational. Do this on a scheduled basis, as part of the pre-trip vehicle walk-around safety inspection, and whenever the brakes don’t feel “right.”

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP)

PO Box 44330

Olympia, WA 98504-4330


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.

The full report of this incident can be found 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.

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