BACKGROUND: On a mild, late fall afternoon in the Southeast, a log truck was merging onto an Interstate highway. Winds were fairly calm, and the road surface was dry.
Personal Characteristics: The past driving experience and the previous accident history of the 67-year-old tractor-trailer driver were unknown. He was hauling a full load of pulpwood.
Unsafe Act: The tractor-trailer driver exited one major thoroughfare and prepared to merge onto an Interstate highway. The exit to the Interstate highway was on a curved, “cloverleaf” ramp that sloped slightly downhill. The truck came out of the last, sharpest part of the ramp’s curve onto the Interstate merge lane at too high a speed, according to police.
ACCIDENT: The driver lost control of his truck, possibly due in part to a slight shifting of the bound load. The tractor-trailer overturned, blocking all lanes of the Interstate and the acceleration ramp. A load binder strap holding the rear bunk of random-length pulpwood logs broke loose, and some of the pulpwood spilled out onto the road surface.
INJURY: The driver was not injured, and fortunately no other vehicles collided with the truck or the load. At one point, the Interstate was backed up for 13 miles while the Department of Transportation cleared the truck and the spilled logs. Recommendations FOR
• Log truck drivers must not exceed safe speed for the load and road conditions they encounter. Slow down when approaching curves in the road. Obey posted traffic (speed limit) signs.
• Drivers should be trained to understand load dynamics and center of gravity. A doublebunk pulpwood load is most susceptible to rollover—the higher the load and the farther back the weight is, the higher the risk.
• All truck drivers should wear seatbelts. In this case, it presumably saved the driver from injury (or worse).
• Ensure that all load binders (two per rack for a double-bunk load) are in proper working order and that the working load limit of the binders is adequate for the load being transported, in accordance with cargo securement regulations. Ensure that the logs are securely bound before leaving the harvest site, and check the binders for tightness again before entering a major highway.
Appalachian/Southwide Region Manager