Trucker backs trailer into pool-sized pothole. Was this accident preventable?

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Updated Jun 29, 2022

Trucker John Doe was coming to the end of his eight-hour drive clock just outside Cookietown, Oklahoma, when up ahead was the large, dark, empty parking lot of Short Stax Meat and Three – a restaurant ran out of business by the nearby opening of Tall Stax Meat and Four, a larger national competitor. 

"Not a street light or another truck in sight," exclaimed Doe, excited to stream on his break the first episode of Stranger Things season 4.

The Short Stax parking lot had fallen into disrepair, but well-ahead of his scheduled delivery time Doe navigated his way through the potholes, parked his rig, went off-duty, climbed into the bunk and fired up Netflix for the 1 hour and 18 minute episode.

Successfully fighting the urge to binge the entire season, Doe crawled back into the driver's seat and switched his log back to "driving" following his nearly 90-minute break. 

"All clear," Doe muttered after scanning his mirrors in the desolate parking lot. "Like a ghost town."

Doe began to slowly inch backward across a parking lot that felt like it had been shelled by mortar fire when – "SPLOOOOOSH" – the trailer dropped several feet into a massive water-filled crater, damaging parts of the undercarriage. 

Was this accident preventable?

Doe's fleet manager cited Doe for a preventable accident, saying that had Doe performed a walk-around before moving the truck, he'd have seen a pothole "so big it could swallow a VW Beetle whole," the manager said. "This is Day 1 of Trucking 101 kind of stuff, JD."

Doe contested, arguing that the water masked the hole – "It just looked like a puddle," Doe exclaimed – adding that even if he'd seen it during a walk around there was no way to know the pothole was as deep as an above-ground swimming pool. Doe asked the National Safety Council to weigh-in. The agency agreed with Doe's manager that a simple walk around could have prevented the accident, adding that given the overall poor condition of the parking lot, Doe should have been exceedingly cautious.