Preventable or not: Nowhere to turn for Doe

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John Doe tried to sneak past a car blocking his way on the inclined loading dock, but his trailer dipped during a sharp turn and smashed into the battery box on the back of his tractor. Was this a preventable accident? John Doe tried to sneak past a car blocking his way on the inclined loading dock, but his trailer dipped during a sharp turn and smashed into the battery box on the back of his tractor. Was this a preventable accident?

“Man! That’s gotta be one of the all-time best!” tractor-trailer driver John Doe exclaimed to himself while a hair-raisingly loud Jamey Johnson song blasted from his iPod. As the song concluded, Doe mentally returned to the task at hand – backing his long trailer down a steep ramp, terminating at the freight dock of Strawhorn’s Auto Parts, to offload some brake linings. It was high noon under a cloudless sky.


Later, making a graceful exit proved problematic because a red 1968 Mustang convertible now occupied the employee parking space immediately behind the top of the ramp. While clearance was super-tight, Doe figured that he could squeak past without incident. Ever so slowly, with the extreme caution and total concentration characteristic of a professional truck driver, Doe executed a full-lock left-hand turn over the uneven hump at the top of the ramp – which caused the trailer’s nose to dip.

SQRUEE-CRUNCHO! Much to Doe’s chagrin, the elevated diamond-plate lid of his between-the-frame-rails battery box was walloped and severely deformed by the resulting collision with the left front corner of his trailer. Doe wasn’t injured, but he already knew what was coming as soon as he contacted his dispatcher.

Sure enough, Doe’s safety director hammered him with a preventable-accident warning letter, which he promptly contested, so the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to render a final decision. To Doe’s dismay, NSC upheld the “preventable” decision, saying that he should have asked that the Mustang be moved to a safe haven, allowing for a less extreme turning maneuver.