On April 28th, there was an incident near Cookeville, Tennessee that claimed the lives of two truckers and injured another. It involved one of the most dangerous forms of cargo and distracted driving. A truck carrying a pair of metal coils was traveling down I-40 and came upon the work zone; the driver failed to slow down in time. The truck rear-ended another truck, causing the coil on the front of the flatbed to move forward, crushing the sleeper compartment and its occupant. Both drivers succumbed to their injuries. The driver of the rig impacted by the flatbed was injured as well, but is doing okay.
Hauling metal coils is a very tricky business. Of course, you want the coil locked down as tight as possible. There is an entire section of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) devoted to the subject (49 CFR § 393.120). One would think you’d always use coil bunks, sturdy timbers, and heavy steel chains to hold it in place. Not all the time though. Some shippers require fabric straps in order to prevent metal-to-metal contact and possible metallurgical changes to the material. The straps are commonly used with aluminum coils.
“A commercial vehicle that failed to see the slowed traffic struck a second commercial vehicle in the rear. Two subjects in the first CMV are confirmed deceased.“Tennessee Highway Patrol
Now I’m not proclaiming distracted driving had anything to do with this incident. However, we all know that there’s a lot of it out there. Cell phones, GPS devices, radios are major culprits we know about. Well, there’s a pile of other things, like talking to a co-driver, looking at a traffic sign, or even thinking to yourself about what to eat. Even the habit of checking your mirrors every 10 seconds taught by some safety instructors can be distracting.
In my opinion, if you’re not fully devoted to what’s going on in the direction of travel, you are distracted. Surprisingly, it’s often what “you never would have guessed” becomes the culprit.
And distracted driving is one of the selling points of autonomous driving (until the legal beagles can figure out how to prove the AI was distracted).
We have to learn from the negative experiences and use the outcomes to better ourselves. We are called “professionally licensed drivers” by the higher-ups, so we need to perform to the expectations given to us. Rest easy drivers, we got the next shift…