Don’t let complacency turn into tragedy

By: Daren Hansen

Publication: Transportation Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 11/02/2021

Shortcuts involving cargo securement can have tragic consequences

Shortcuts on the road can save time, but shortcuts involving cargo securement can have tragic consequences, even for experienced drivers.

A truck driver’s death in Washington state earlier this year serves as a heartbreaking reminder of this. The 47-year-old driver was struck by a 1,500-pound bale of recycled cardboard that fell out of his trailer as he opened the doors.

He had worked for the transportation company for a decade and was actively involved in the company’s safety program and in training new employees, yet he had failed to use any securement at the back of the fully loaded trailer.

According to the coroner, the driver died of blunt-force injuries to the torso.

Straps were available but not used

Investigators found that the employer provided straps to prevent bales from tipping over and falling out when drivers opened the trailer doors, but drivers did not commonly use them.

In addition, the semi-trailer was parked on uneven ground, which may have destabilized the stack of bales.

Safety vs. complacency

The driver’s death serves as a stark reminder that complacency is the enemy of safety. In short, drivers can get so used to doing their jobs — expecting the same outcome every time — that they become a hazard to themselves.

That’s why motor carriers must “break up the routine” with safety meetings, toolbox talks, and follow-up training. Share stories like this one to remind drivers of how complacency can create unexpected dangers.

In addition, consider the following steps:

  • Ensure all drivers are trained on proper cargo securement, no matter what type of cargo you haul. Even fully loaded dry-van trailers can pose a danger, especially when the doors are opened.
  • Ensure that cargo is secured at the rear. Doors can provide securement in transit, but that securement goes away when the doors are opened.
  • Provide and require drivers to use cargo securement devices such as load bars, straps, chains, dunnage, and other devices. Have consequences for those who fail to properly secure their cargo before every trip.
  • Remind drivers to park their trucks and trailers on level ground before opening the trailer doors.
  • Ensure that drivers unlock and open one trailer door at a time and shield themselves from falling cargo by standing behind the door.
  • Make sure company policies and procedures are followed and enforced at all times. When drivers make a mistake or have a close call, act immediately to correct the problem so drivers know the company is serious about safety.

Key to remember: When it comes to safety, complacency is the enemy. Take action to ensure your drivers are vigilant when it comes to protecting themselves and the motoring public.

About the author
Daren Hansen - Transportation Safety Editor

Based on his expertise in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Daren is responsible for writing and editing content for safety-related products, publications, and services for the trucking industry.

Expert Help Icon

Have a compliance question for Daren? The J. J. Keller Expert Help tool provides you direct access to Daren and other trusted experts to help answer your toughest compliance questions.