On a warm, sunny spring afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, a fatal accident occurred involving a driver assisting another driver in the process of dumping his loaded 53’ trailer at a receiving forest products company.Driver A was the victim who was on the ground at the dumper assisting Driver B get his truck un-coupled from his trailer. Both drivers were experienced drivers with years of service in the forest products industry. Both were wearing all the required PPE. The facility’s truck dumpers were built before the longer current day 4-axle tractors and 4-axle trailers were in use. Consequently, the truck dump platforms were shorter, requiring the tractor to be uncoupled from the trailer before dumping could begin.
The details are as follows:
- Driver A showed up around 3:30 PM and after dumping his load decided to wait for his friend and fellow driver to help him dump so they could head to the next loading point together.
- Driver B arrived at the facility within 15 minutes and after weighing in proceeded to the next available dumper.
- Upon backing onto the dumper Driver B got out and engaged the release plate on his tractor which was stuck; meanwhile, Driver A walked over to assist him.
- Both Driver A and B exchanged greetings and worked together to use the release pull rod to disengage the stuck fifth wheel plate.
- Once disengaged, Driver B got back into his truck to pull forward; meanwhile, Driver A went between the driver wheels of the tractor to stow the fifth wheel pull rod.
- In one quick motion, Driver B pulled ahead not realizing Driver A was still between the driver wheels stowing the pull rod. Driver A’s entire body was fatally crushed in an instant.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION
In the event a second person is required to assist in the uncoupling of a trailer, it is the driver’s ultimate responsibility to ensure through communication and visual contact that the assistant is clear before pulling away. This clearly did not happen in this event, resulting in the fatality.
Vickie Swanton, FRA Western Region Manager