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Preventable or not? Hard braking for deer spells trouble

Illustration shows a trucker in front of John Doe panic-stopped to avoid a deer

A trucker in front of John Doe panic-stopped to avoid a deer, so Doe also hit the brakes hard, causing a tied-down drum to break free and damage his trailer’s interior. Was this a preventable accident?

Much to his relief, the palletized load of drums for Pooka’s Pool Supply was John Doe’s last scheduled delivery for the day. After backing his trailer to the loading dock, supervising the unloading process and completing the usual exchange of paperwork, he hurried over to the employee vending area to buy some heavy-duty coffee.

Returning to his rig, Doe saw forklift operator Morty Furndock returning a 55-gallon drum to the trailer. It appeared that the drum was destined for Pooka’s second store on the other side of town. So Doe found some rope and secured the drum to a section of rub rail by the rear door. The rest of the trailer now was empty.

A few minutes later, Doe was cruising down the freeway at 55 mph in the wake of another truck. Suddenly, the trucker in front panic-stopped to avoid a deer, so Doe also hit the brakes hard, causing the drum to break free, slide down the length of the metal-floored trailer and smash into the header, damaging it severely. Since Doe contested the warning letter for a preventable accident from his safety director, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to make a final ruling.

NSC quickly ruled in Doe’s favor because he had been traveling at a safe speed for conditions, had been following the truck at a safe distance, had made a totally-controlled stop and presumably could not have anticipated the heavy rope he had acquired from Pooka’s Pool Supply was faulty and, therefore, insufficient to restrain the drum during rapid deceleration.

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