Trucker's high-winds tip-over crash an act of God -- or 'preventable?'


Northbound on California's four-lane Coastview Highway, trucker John Doe was well aware of gusty conditions. The speed limit on the road was 55 mph, yet crosswinds had been picking up during the trip, and he decelerated to 30 miles per hour in the right lane. 

Suddenly, a violent 70-mph wind caught his rig like a sail and flipped it over. The scenario, re-created in the video above, is the latest installment in the Preventable or Not? series from Overdrive sister publication CCJ. 

A preventable-accident warning letter duly arrived for Doe in the aftermath from his safety director. Yet the trucker felt the act of God was what it was -- something he'd done everything he could possibly have been expected to do to prevent. He contested the preventable determination by appealing to the National Safety Council’s accident review committee

Watch the video to find out how the NSC came down on preventability.

It's worth noting that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's own current Crash Preventability Determination Program does not include a eligible-crash category that would account for a wind tip-over crash like this. In that program, carriers involved in a variety of crashes can use FMCSA's DataQs system to request a preventability review. If deemed "nonpreventable," the crash is then excluded from the carrier's scores in the CSA Safety Measurement System's crash category. 

Changes proposed in 2023 to the crash types that can be reviewed in the program do offer some possibility for a wind-related tip-over like this one, though, provided video evidence exists to underpin the conditions. The changes would make eligible for review any crash for which a video demonstrates the sequence of events of the crash. (FMCSA noted at the time of proposing the changes that it believed the submission of videos could allow it to review crashes that are not in the 21 other eligible proposed types.) Hear plenty in the way of advice around the importance of having clearly nonpreventable crashes reviewed in this recent edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast

[Related: FMCSA proposes changes to Crash Preventability Determination Program

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Speaker 1: Tractor-trailer driver John Doe was northbound on California’s four-lane Coastview Highway with an empty trailer in tow. Noting a sudden increase in gusty crosswinds, Doe pulled into the right lane and decelerated to 30 mph from the posted 55 mph speed limit.

Suddenly a 70-mph gust broadsided Doe’s trailer and flipped it violently onto its side.

Doe received a preventable accident warning letter from his safety director, which he contested. The National Safety Council’s accident review committee ruled in Doe’s favor, declaring that he had taken every reasonable precaution. Even a dead stop probably would not have helped, the NSC said.

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