Safety Issues


Truck Operator Loses Control of Tractor-Trailer on Snow Covered Highway Striking and Killing a Volunteer Fire Fighter Sitting in his Vehicle

A 59-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (victim) was fatally injured when a tractor-trailer struck his parked vehicle.  The victim had responded to a weather related single motor vehicle incident on an interstate highway.  Upon his arrival to the scene, the incident commander advised the victim to position his pick-up truck upstream to warn oncoming traffic of the vehicle incident in the curve.  He positioned himself upstream on the shoulder and turned on his emergency flashers and roof-top light bar.  The oncoming tractor-trailer pulling two trailers, lost control on the snow covered highway when changing lanes causing the rear trailer to swing counter-clockwise.  The operator swerved several times before the rear trailer struck the victim’s pick-up truck.

The Incident

The operator of an approaching tractor-trailer pulling two trailers lost control approximately three-tenths of a mile before the victim’s position.  The operator advised the state highway patrol he was attempting to change lanes while down shifting after he saw the emergency lights on the victim’s vehicle.  While doing so, the second trailer attached to the first became unstable and started to fishtail.  The state highway patrol stated that the tractor-trailer went back and forth across both westbound travel lanes.  The state highway patrol believes that the right rear of the first trailer impacted the victim’s pick-up truck first, and then the dolly and second trailer swung around impacting the pick-up truck and jack-knifing.   

The Investigation

Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events on a larger sequence of events that ultimately result in the injury or fatality. NIOSH identified the following items as key contributing factors in this incident that ultimately led to the fatality: 1) Hazardous road conditions; 2) Speed of the tractor-trailer was too fast for road conditions; and 3) Seat belt was not used to restrain the victim in his seated position.

The state highway patrol stated the operator had a current CDL with double/triple trailer qualifications, the tractor-trailer and trailers were properly maintained with a working air-brake system, hitches were properly placed, secured and did not fail, and tires were found to have adequate air pressure and tread depth.



  • Companies using tractor trailers should ensure that operators drive in a manner that is compatible with weather conditions.

Safety Issues is presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Truckers Association (NTA).  NIOSH is the U.S. federal agency that conducts research and develops recommendations to prevent all kinds of occupational injuries and illnesses. NIOSH uses the results of its research to communicate prevention information to employers, workers, and others who are in a position to make changes to improve safety and health for workers. This month's Safety Issues was contributed by the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIP) program.  Further information on NIOSH research and prevention activities related to FFFIP can be found at 

The complete report can be found at