Tow Truck Driver Securing Vehicle to Tow Bed Struck by SUV Driver, Michigan
Michigan Case Report: 18MI002
Report Date: 12/20/2019
In Winter 2018, a male tow truck driver in his 40s died when he was struck by a vehicle as he was securing a pickup truck on his flatbed tow truck. After experiencing a flat tire on the expressway and a failed repair, the pickup driver exited the expressway and drove to nearby gas station to inflate the flat tire. The air compressor was not working, so the driver left the station and was driving in the right lane of the roadway to another nearby station when the tire bead came off the rear passenger wheel. The driver stopped the pickup truck near the expressway ramp intersection; there were two travel lanes and a turn lane for the entrance ramp. The driver stopped in the right travel lane and called for a tow truck. The intersection was lit by overhead lights. It was raining. The decedent arrived and parked his tow truck behind the disabled pickup truck. The tow truck’s overhead yellow lights were activated as were the running lights and 4 LED lights that lit up the back of the tow truck. The decedent did not don his hi-vis vest when he exited the truck. The decedent worked 30+ minutes attempting to release and drop the pickup truck’s spare tire. Unable to release the tire, the decedent offered to tow the vehicle. The decedent moved the tow truck to the front of the disabled pickup, loaded the pickup onto the flat bed of the tow truck, and partially raised the bed. After securing the front of the vehicle, he proceeded to the rear and was in the process of placing the hooks to secure the pickup to the bed when a vehicle driver, who had an elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and marijuana level, struck the decedent, one of the pickup truck passengers, and the rear of the tow truck. The decedent was pinned between the rear of the flatbed and the front of the vehicle that struck him. The decedent struck the windshield on the driver’s side and the pickup truck’s hitch struck the windshield on the passenger side. Emergency response was called and the decedent was declared dead at the scene and the injured pickup truck passenger was transported to the hospital.
- Design and lack of maintenance of spare tire hoist system did not permit decedent to lower spare tire
- Driver operating a vehicle while intoxicated
- Visibility of operation (No hi-vis vest worn, pickup on truck bed obscured tow truck overhead lights, no portable emergency warning devices placed)
- Driver of pickup truck parked in active roadway rather than proceeding to nearby off-road parking
MIFACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Vehicle dealerships/servicing centers servicing vehicles with spare tire safety retaining latch/hoist systems should inspect this system at least annually for functionality.
- Workers working in active roadways should always wear appropriately selected protective equipment.
- Towing companies should consider utilizing portable emergency warning devices.
- Tow truck operators should work in conjunction with law enforcement/emergency service providers to secure the work area prior to loading and securing a vehicle.
- Employers should implement/enforce their health and safety program policies and procedures.
- Tow truck operators should consider National Traffic Incident Management Responder Training, regardless of company size.
- Employers should make every effort to moderate alcohol consumption at company-sponsored events through education and expectation that excess alcohol consumption and/or driving under the influence will not be tolerated.
- There should be increased public awareness of Michigan’s “Move Over” Law.