Preventable or not?


Sometimes, even running a COE with a short trailer can’t guarantee maneuvering room. John Doe needed to back his traditional International cabover and 45-foot trailer right up to a dumpster full of stale fries and waste paper sitting inside a fenced area behind a fast food restaurant. Maneuvering space was at a premium, but Doe was quite used to that at this kind of pickup point.

Knowing how these things usually went and seeing Doe approach the store, the manager had stepped outside to assist. After stopping in the street out front, Doe quietly slipped the stick of his 10-speed into reverse, let up on the clutch and allowed the truck to just reach its crawler clutch engagement speed of only 2 mph without even tickling the throttle. As he backed in, he said to himself, “Thank heaven for the right gearing.”

Despite conditions tight as a truck-rodeo course, Doe soon had the trailer perfectly lined up and aimed at the targeted green dumpster. The only problem was the gate to the fenced-in area, which was fitted with a worn out spring that kept it partly closed (and in Doe’s way) unless somebody was there to position it. With plenty of time at the low speed, Doe motioned to the store manager to hold it open. The manager understood and went right to it, holding the gate in the fully open position in plenty of time.

Doe backed steadily, skillfully holding his line. He was just getting complacent about how well this was going when the manager abruptly let go and disappeared from the scene!

Doe immediately realized the door and his trailer were now on a collision course. He stabbed the treadle valve, stopping the rig only a second too late. Both the fence and trailer were damaged. Though a 30-year veteran driver, Doe received a warning letter claiming the accident had been preventable.

Doe did not agree and asked the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee to intercede. The council first declared that Doe had failed to obey his employer’s rule to “always maintain a safe clearance between the doors of fenced areas and fleet vehicles,” Doe’s claim that maneuvering in such tight quarters was the norm and quite unavoidable in the real world, notwithstanding. Second, the council stated that John should have communicated verbally, requesting specifically that the manager hold the door wide open until Doe had applied the parking brake. In the end, Doe had to live with the warning letter’s declaration.

The American Trucking Associations named James McFarlin the 2003 ATA Safety Director of the Year. McFarlin, director of safety and security for Fort Smith, Ark.-based ABF Freight Systems, was honored by ATA’s Safety and Loss Prevention Management Council for outstanding professional qualifications, safety programs and achievements. Before joining ABF Freight Systems more than 15 years ago, McFarlin, a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, worked twenty years in law enforcement. The ATA Safety Director of the Year award is sponsored by Aon Truck Group.

ITI’s Tread-1 computer-based driver training system offers two new modules on the hours-of-service regulations and logbook maintenance, both reflecting changes effective Jan. 4, 2004. ITI planned to install the HOS training on the iMacs at its clients’ training sites around the first of November, and the logbook module is to be added by the first week of December. The company held off on final production of the training modules to accommodate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration amendments, says Bruce Weiss, ITI executive vice president. The interactive training programs run approximately 40 minutes each.