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20-S-01: Blown Tire Triggers Dump Truck Crash

Blown Tire

Background:

A commercial truck driver was driving an old-model, used dump truck on an Appalachian Region interstate highway late one summer night. The driver had just purchased the dump truck earlier that evening and was driving it back to his place of business in another state. The weather was mild and the roadway was dry.

Personnel Characteristics:

The 63-year-old driver was the owner-operator of a business that sold and transported vehicles and other equipment. His past driving record and physical and mental condition at the time of the incident were not reported.

Unsafe Acts and Condition:

It is unknown whether the driver conducted a complete pre-trip inspection of the dump truck (especially whether he checked the tires) prior to operation. He was still driving the truck past midnight and was estimated to be traveling at 70 mph when the driver’s-side front tire failed and disintegrated. He was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident.

Accident:

Yaw marks on the right shoulder of the interstate suggested that the driver may have oversteered to compensate for the blown tire but was unable to maintain control of the vehicle. The dump truck veered sharply to the left, crossed over the grassy median, and continued across the opposite-direction traffic lanes until it struck an earthen embankment on the highway shoulder.

Injury:

The crash severely damaged the cab. First responders arrived at the crash within ten minutes of the incident. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The death certificate listed the cause of death as multiple blunt force trauma sustained in the motor vehicle collision.

Recommendations for Correction:

  1. Commercial vehicle drivers must adhere to federal regulations which require the use of seat belts. (Wearing a seat belt can greatly reduce the severity of injuries sustained in a crash.)
  1. Commercial vehicle operators must complete daily driver vehicle inspection reports on all commercial vehicles. In this incident, the victim may not have had previous knowledge of the vehicle and its maintenance record and mechanical roadworthiness. FMCSR 396.13 states that before driving a commercial motor vehicle, the driver shall be satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition.
  1. Examine tires during pre-trip and post-trip inspections for defects and damage, including: Irregular tread wear, cracking, bulges, cuts, tread separation, embedded foreign objects, and inadequate tread depth. Also, check tires for proper inflation, verify that rim and tire combinations are compatible, and never exceed the weight or speed rating for tires. (See https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/USDOT_1168_1097_TireAdvisory.pdf)
  1. Commercial vehicle operators should be properly trained in defensive driving techniques. When a steering-axle tire blowout happens, do not step on the brakes. Instead, slightly accelerate to maintain forward momentum, grip the steering wheel firmly, and gently counter steer to offset the side force created by the blowout until regaining control of the vehicle. Then the driver can ease off the accelerator and allow the vehicle to slow itself gradually. Activate emergency flashers and safely pull off to the side of the road when slowing to a stop. (See https://www.automotive-fleet.com/325666/how-to-handle-a-tire-blowout or https://www.truckinginfo.com/312339/tire-blowouts-dont-have-to-be-deadly)
  1. Drivers must remember that speed (and fatigue) can hinder their ability to safely handle a vehicle emergency.

(Source for this incident:  Kentucky FACE Program Report 19KY045 - www.mc.uky.edu/kiprc/face/reports/pdf/19KY045.pdf.) 

Reviewed by:
Southwide Safety Committee;
Rick Meyer, Appalachian Region Manager