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Deadly Michigan Truck Wreck Makes Drivers Think Twice About Pre-Trip Inspections

Principal at HNI Michigan

pre_trip_inspectionsA set of dual tires fell off a tractor-trailer, bounced over the median, and struck a car in crash last month in western Michigan. Two people in the car were killed. The May 30 accident is under investigation, and it's unclear what caused the tires to come off the truck.

This accident happened right before the annual CVSA International Roadcheck (June 2-4). The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance reports that since the group started the yearly checkup blitz in 1988, more than 1 million inspections have been conducted, with more than 300 lives saved and more than 5,000 injuries avoided.

This accident is a chilling reminder of the huge transportation industry risks drivers manage every day at “the office.” Most drivers we have the pleasure of working with strive to make safe decisions at every turn. But some parts of the work, from cargo to the weather to other drivers, don’t make the ride easy or safe.

Managing Transportation Industry Risks Includes Diligent Maintenance

Accidents bring to mind transportation industry risks and reinforce for motor carriers of the importance of pre- and post-trip inspections. Looking over your vehicle before and after you hit the road is the best way to catch any maintenance issues. (It's not known whether maintenance was an issue in the Michigan crash.)

Consider all the elements that get checked during a Level 1 inspection — like the inspections performed during the recent CVSA International Roadcheck. Performing a once-over on the following components during a pre-trip inspection isn't a bad idea:

  • braking system
  • coupling devices
  • exhaust system
  • frame
  • fuel system
  • lights
  • safe loading
  • steering mechanism
  • suspension
  • tires
  • van and open-top trailer bodies
  • wheels and rims
  • windshield wipers
  • emergency exits (on buses)
  • paperwork, including CDL, trailer registration, and documents in permit book

It's also a best practice, although not required, for a driver to conduct a pre- and post-trip inspection on a himself. Drivers should take a few minutes to examine how tired they feel and to perform a mini-mental health check. They should answer, "How's my energy level?" and "Is my head in the game for this?" This time of reflection helps ensure that they can safely do the job and determines how much of a break they need before they can roll out again.

Truck Crashes by the Numbers

While this crash in Michigan made the news, it's important to note that of all the vehicles on the road, trucks are among the safest out there. To keep things in perspective, here are some trucking stats complied by American Trucking Associations (click here for the trucking safety facts PDF):

  • The crash rate for trucks is almost half that of other vehicles.
  • Car drivers in fatal car-truck crashes, according to multiple studies, are principally at fault 70%-75% of the time.
  • The latest data show that only 2% of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit for non-commercial drivers. (Commercial drivers have a stricter limit of 0.04%.) To compare, 23% of passenger drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • The truck-involved fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled dropped 38% from 2003 to 2013.

Accidents can happen to anyone at any time, and big visibility in a big truck can make for big headlines. But the numbers show that professional drivers have fewer accidents — a trend that trucking can be proud of and worth continuing. Transportation industry risks can be nasty — but they also can be managed.

What to Do at the Scene of an Accident

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Photo via Pixabay

Topics: Transportation