Flatbed brakes too late to avoid a road hazard. Was this accident preventable?

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In this Preventable or Not accident scenario, a machinery-laden flatbed brakes too late to avoid a rusted road hazard. Was this accident preventable? 

CCJ's Preventable or Not series is sponsored by CarriersEdge, creator of interactive online training for small and midsize fleets, including comprehensive safety, compliance and best practices content for truck drivers. To learn more, visit https://www.carriersedge.com/


As the sun rose in a cloudless sky, John Doe was hauling a machinery-laden flatbed down Lethargy Lane, bound for a construction site on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama.

Moving at the posted speed limit of 45 mph, Doe rounded a bend and found himself directly behind a slower-moving pickup belching dense smoke. Seconds later, the pickup swerved wildly onto the shoulder to avoid striking a truck muffler on the blacktop ahead.

Too close for comfort, Doe braked hard. But he had no time to steer clear of the rusty road hazard, which mangled a brake chamber and slack adjuster on his rig’s undercarriage. Doe received a warning letter from his company safety director, citing him for a preventable accident.

Doe contested the warning letter, claiming that the muffler’s sudden appearance made it impossible to avoid. To resolve the dispute, his company asked the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee to intervene. 

To Doe’s dismay, NSC also ruled the accident “preventable,” stating that he had tailed the pickup too closely, thereby depriving himself of the time and space required to steer clear of trouble.