The Truck Driver
The 28-year-old back-up route truck driver worked at a family-owned produce company. He had worked for the company for about a year. He also worked in the truck yard and was acting as a spotter for another driver at the time of the incident.
The morning of the incident was clear and cold. The truck yard was covered with snow and ice. A tractor-trailer parked on a slight incline had slid backward down the slope into a second trailer when a worker had tried to move it.
The truck driver brought another truck to the scene and was about to hook up to the second trailer and try to move it away from the first trailer. His supervisor arrived and decided that he would instead try to nudge the second trailer away from the first by striking the trailer kingpin with the angled portion of the truck’s fifth wheel. Another worker lowered the landing gear on the trailer. The supervisor told the truck driver to act as his spotter as he backed the truck up toward the trailer. Although the driver had received his CDL, he had not had specific training on spotting.
The driver stood under the trailer just behind the kingpin. A few other employees were watching from a short distance away. From the cab, the supervisor could not see the driver behind the truck. The supervisor got into the truck, backed it up, and struck the kingpin with the fifth wheel. The trailer moved a little, but not enough, so the supervisor got into the truck and pulled it forward for another attempt.
Once again, the driver stood under the trailer between the kingpin and the landing gear bracing. This time, the supervisor missed the kingpin as he was backing up and kept going. The driver was crushed between the back of the truck and the landing gear bracing.
Another worker yelled and the supervisor immediately pulled the truck forward. He pulled the driver from under the trailer and began CPR while other workers called 911. Emergency personnel arrived and tried to revive the driver, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Employers should train all truck yard workers and spotters to never position themselves between a stationary object and a tractor or tractor-trailer in motion.
Employers should develop written procedures for spotting, and provide training to any worker who may perform spotting duties.
Drivers should never start or continue backing up without visual confirmation that their spotter is positioned safely.
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.
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