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Wide left gone wrong — truck driver’s fault or not?

| July 12, 2013

John Doe attempted to execute a wide left but still was struck by a bus whose driver didn’t turn sharply enough. Was this a preventable accident?

Truck driver John Doe was ready at dawn with a jug of hot coffee and was pulling his rig out of the terminal yard heading east on a four-lane road. He was pulling a 48-foot flatbed loaded with a steel coil, and traffic was light.

The road he was on dead-ended into Route 7, where he would be turning left. To make sure he had enough room for the turn, he got into the right-hand lane (which allowed left turns), and when the light turned green, he checked for oncoming traffic and then carefully began his turn.

In the left-hand lane next to him, a bus also began to turn left, but he didn’t make the turn sharp enough and moved into the lane Doe was in. Doe got on the brakes and stopped dead, then sounded his horn.

The bus driver failed to react, however, and took a swipe out of Doe’s tractor.

Later Doe received a warning letter from his carrier for a preventable accident, saying he should have hung back and anticipate that the large bus would have gotten in his lane.

He disputed, and the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee intervened, ruling in John Doe’s favor. NSC said he reacted properly, that the bus had plenty of room to maneuver and that the bus initially did not appear to pose a threat.

This was an adaptation of Overdrive sister site CCJ‘s “Preventable or not?” series, which appears regularly on

  • Jessica Gonzalez

    Being a Safety and Compliance Director of a mid-size trucking company, it aggravates me that the company would automatically assume their driver was at fault. I do not understand how some carriers can just “write off” drivers without defending them first.

  • GeoKacher13

    Bus driver at fault, period.

  • GeoKacher13

    I agree. That’s another punch to the morale of law abiding truck drivers when the companies automatically assume their drivers are always in the wrong. It’s bad enough the media and motoring public have this misconception that ”it’s always the fault of the big truck”, and then to have a driver’s own employer do the same thing is hitting below the belt. It’s any wonder why ANYONE would want to drive a truck with this preconceived, yet totally inaccurate mindset!

  • Craig Vecellio

    That’s a refreshing perspective for a safety director to have, but the unfortunate truth is that the reason many companies rule their own driver’s accident as ‘preventable’ even when the other driver is legally at fault is a combination of 2 things: One, they assume that if a driver missed the other driver’s mistake, he is likely not paying attention and is therefore a risk, especially with the screwy way CSA tracks crashes. Two, drivers are still a dime a dozen. In the minds of some companies, it’s too easy to replace a driver.

  • No Reform

    Bus was in the wrong lane…should have been behind the truck..especially if it was 40 foot or more..

  • No Reform

    Truck driver is always to blame when anything goes wrong….Guilty till proven innocent.

  • Jessica Gonzalez

    It’s sad. I am the biggest supporters for all of my drivers (83) and will always be an advocate for truck drivers in general, but until other Safety Directors start thinking about how we can all come together to support this industry as a whole, nothing will change. My policies are simple: never lie about the truth and if you messed up, tell me from the beginning and I’ll find a way to fix it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve ran into some “knuckle headed” drivers that have no respect for themselves and/or the motoring public and have no business on the road, but for every one of those knuckle heads I can show you five more that actually care and know how to be a professional driver.

  • Castaway50

    Bus driver screwed up!!!

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I would go to bat for my driver even if he was in the wrong , Because of the law sutes that would end up being filed !

  • MD

    …both are at fault…
    bus was in the wrong lane for the turn to start…citation
    truck driver was in the correct turning lane…no citation
    truck driver had the opportunity to stop and wait on the bus(Professional Move)
    truck driver did not stop and wait (Unprofessional)
    …Yes…this accident could have been prevented…Question is, did the driver of truck just assume and make the turn without looking over the left side or mirrors, did he get the big picture before entering the intersection…so many factors…
    Anyone can be a truck driveer, but it takes a professional to drive a truck and be defensive…

  • martymarsh

    After reading all of the comments, I don’t think you folks are going to like this one much.
    They are both wrong, but the truck driver is the one that could have prevented it. With experience comes the realization that you have to drive for everyone else, which means you have to be ready to make up for their mistakes. More so when you are at an intersection where 2 large vehicles can’t make the swing together. But what it probably came down to was, they tried to beat each other to the punch and thought the other would back off.
    So if nothing else, even if the bus did have enough room, it was up to the person on the right to make sure everything went right.

  • martymarsh

    Right on the money.

  • TWade

    The driver stays in his lane, stops before impact which means he was watching the other vehicle in his mirror. Except for setting at the white lane and wait for every vehicle to make a turn before he starts his turn is the only way the driver could avoid this accident. Which may take a day or two. Since the impact was on the tractor’s left front fender shows that the bus driver was not watching his path of travel which makes this accident the bus drivers fault. If this was a city or school bus more than likely the bus driver knew how much room he needed to make his turn and was trying to get in front of the truck to finish his turn. The safety department failed to use common sense in this case.

  • Marty DiGiacomo

    You ought to work in Obama’s FMCSA. You think like they do.

  • Marty DiGiacomo

    Good thinking, Jessica.

  • martymarsh

    Everyone loves the truth as long as it don’t bury them.
    Like I said, that is where experience comes in, you have to drive for everyone else. If you had the experience you would know that.
    Also, king Obama is nothing to me.

  • Dave Bustos

    Sorry but both arrows in the lanes point straight. Driver in right lane must turn right driver in left lane must turn left.

  • whiskey

    In the USA you are always guilty until proven innocent!

  • texan2thebone

    Only problem I see here is that the bus driver is also considered to be a professional, in most cases. If the truck was in the intersection already and the bus came up along inside, it should have been the bus driver who slowed and allowed the truck to complete the turn. Looking at the diagram, it also appears the bus was turning into the improper lane, although that would have to be revisited if more lane lines were shown. Properly, you turn into the nearest lane to you, especially important in multi-lane turns. As noted, bus was in the improper lane for a long vehicle. Fault bus driver.

  • texan2thebone

    In the second paragraph, it clearly states left turns allowed from both lanes.

  • texan2thebone

    For a long vehicle, bus was in wrong lane. Text states bus strayed lane, also that Doe got stopped meaning the bus struck a stationary target. The bus driver also should have a CDL and is considered a professional driver also. For the bus to have hit where the diagram shows, Doe was already in the intersection and turning making me think the bus came up alongside, therefore should have yielded. Fault bus driver.

  • phil

    in my opinion bus drivers are not trained good enough for transporting children to school…truck drivers have to go through a couple of weeks training at minimum…however it really comes down to common sense neither one want to have common curtsy while driving and both are at fault 50/50

  • martymarsh

    I agree it is the bus drivers fault, BUT, being that all the traffic is going to be on the drivers side of the truck he should have been prepared even if it was a Volkswagen. You have to always worry about the other guy, just because he was doing everything right don’t make him right if he is not aware what is around him, which makes it preventable. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in that same situation and just let the other guy go just so there wouldn’t be any problems.
    As dumb as it sounds, you have to drive both vehicles.

  • MD

    Correct in your statement…If you are not aware of your surroundings at all times, then trouble looms. I like your analysis of sometimes you have to drive both vehicles…Well said. Also, not knowing the timeline that the driver has been behind the wheel, I beleive that the schools that teach TDT is way to short. When I went to school it was 9 weeks in 1989. Three weeks in the classroom, three weeks backing and three weeks on the road. Now it is strictly to get pass and get your license.

  • martymarsh

    The funny part about the schools and I won’t mention any names like England, they are pushing for safer and slower trucks, could that be because they know what they are putting out there?

  • martymarsh

    I use to work for a guy that always said drivers where a dime a dozen, and every time I would toss him a dime and tell him to go get a GOOD dozen. He knew who was right.

  • Red Light Bandit

    School bus drivers are usually mothers, grandparents looking for a few extra coins of pocket change – and cannot be placed on the same level of professionalism as the trucker. Bus drivers have a double duty job of being a motor vehicle operator of a fairly large size vehicle with MINIMAL training, and baby sitters of kids, who at times are unruly, rude, and divert attention of the driver from the road – hence the need for a SECOND adult on that bus for kid control while the driver operates.

    Yes, the trucker could have waited, and waited, and waited – and the light changes, and he possible could get a red light camera “surprise” at a later date.

    The bus driver was mainly at fault for being in the wrong turning lane for large vehicles – hence the trucker KNEW he had to be in the far right turn lane – the bus driver evidently did not, or could care less. That all goes back to the hiring and lack of training of the school bus drivers – who haul the MOST PRECIOUS of cargo: our kids.

    The school bus driver should have been called in on the carpet for an improper turn – and further training (especially about making turns at intersections). A semi is articulated and has a better pivot to turn that a straight truck or bus – that bus driver has NO BUSINESS being in the left lane.

    Imagine the scenario of two buses side by side loaded with kids – both charging into that intersection. That is a situation I don’t even want to think about. That bus driver placed multiple children’s lives at risk – not just their own – by being in the WRONG lane to turn.

    I say: fire the bus driver – or place into extensive additional training. Hold the school bus drivers up to the SAME standards as truckers.

  • Red Light Bandit

    Trucker stomped the brakes – was essentially a NON moving vehicle. Bus driver kept going – drove right into the side of the truck while making the turn while being in a lane the bus driver has no business in.

    Bus driver fault: 100%

    A few variables that factor in, but not mentioned are:

    1: Who was at that intersection first.
    2: What type of road was it – was there a concrete divider pushing that bus way over into the right lane?

    Could be that the bus driver on a tight schedule did not want to get “STUCK” behind a slow moving truck and lose the light change, so chanced it by NOT staying behind the truck, but rather next to it – HOPING to out gun the truck at the light change.

    Not the full story here – but just enough of the facts to know that a bus that long does NOT make turns in the inner lane, when 2 lanes are available – the trucker KNEW this – he is a pro. The bus driver either did not, or did not care, regardless of who was at the light first.

    Moral of the story is – you cannot pin the absolute stupidity of every entire other driver on the trucker. Defensive driving can only go so far – and that driver did what he could – STOP, HORN, and watch the bus drive into the side of his truck.

    What else was the trucker supposed to do? Drive into the intersection slowly then stop to let the bus cut him off, while vehicles (ANY?) behind him go nuts?

    Train the bus driver on defensive driving. 40 foot vehicles do NOT belong in the inside lane of a tight turn. Bus drivers do not continue to keep the bus in motion when an air horn is blaring.

    The bus driver, from what I am looking at, was trying to outrun the trucker through the turn – and drove their bus right into the side of a truck in its lane. Next time it might be a mini van full of kids. Was there kids on the bus at that time? That would be placing many many kid’s lives in danger for NO reason.

    Good enough reasons for termination at most places.

  • Mohammad Syed Husain

    The truck driver had to be a defensive driver to avoid this incursion in his turning lane by not challenging the violation. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.