19-S-08: Passenger Car Crossed Over into Truck Lane Results in Fatalities

Car crosses center lane

Background

On an early winter evening in the Lake States, a log truck had finished delivering pulpwood to a paper mill. The driver was 20 miles south of the delivery location when the accident occurred. The weather conditions were light snow and road segments were icy from a recent weather event. Research has shown that the main pre-crash event for log truck accidents is a vehicle crossing over the center line into the log truck’s lane.

Personal Characteristics

The 59-year-old driver was an experienced log truck driver. He had more than 15 years of experience and had made multiple pulpwood deliveries during the winter months. The driver was employed by the logging company that harvested the pulpwood.

Unsafe Act

The log truck driver was traveling southbound on a two-lane state highway when a passenger vehicle traveling northbound drifted into the southbound lane, and then overcorrected into the log truck traveling southbound. The truck driver was not able to avoid the passenger vehicle that crossed into the lane he was traveling.

Fatal Injury

Both occupants of the passenger vehicle were killed. The truck driver experienced non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital. While the truck driver was at no fault for this accident, it does present a good opportunity to highlight winter safety tips.

Safety Winter Driving Safety Tips for Truck Drivers:

Winter months can prove challenging for truck drivers. It’s essential that drivers are mindful of current and forecasted weather conditions along their travel route. Below are some safety winter truck driving tips:

  1. Slow down – At-fault accidents are mostly due to excessive speed. Driving at the speed limit may be legal but is often too fast for snow-covered or icy road conditions.
  2. Keep a safe buffer zone around your truck – Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicles around you.
  3. Start a little slower, drive a little slower – Avoid sudden stops and starts in icy or snowy weather.
  4. Keep a safe driving distance back from the vehicle ahead, at all times, especially in bad weather.
  5. Use good, solid judgment — If the weather is so severe get off the road until conditions improve.
  6. Braking — do not engage the Jake brake on icy roads. Try to avoid overusing your foot brake, unless the entire unit is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road.
  7. Watch for black ice — Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when the temperature is close to freezing. Black ice often makes the road surface look slightly wet like a water puddle, making it dangerously deceptive. Shaded spots, bridges and intersections are areas where ice will form first.
  8. Keep tractor and trailer lights clean — When you’re able to stop in a safe place, clear the lights off of snow and ice, which builds up in foul weather.
  9. Carry a winter driving kit — Make sure your truck is equipped with necessary supplies and outfitted for all driving conditions.
  10. Ensure ‘all systems’ are a go — Be absolutely certain during your circle check before you leave, that the defroster and heater are working properly. Wipers, wiper motor, lights, esp. brake and taillights, washer fluid is topped up, drain moisture from the air tanks, all brakes are set up and windows and mirrors are completely clean before departure.

By Tim O’Hara