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Truck driver died of thermal injuries after his tractor-trailer crashed into concrete median on the interstate and burst into flames.

Iowa Department of Public Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 11IA075, 2012 Sep; :1-11
A 40-year-old long-distance truck driver died in 2011 from thermal injuries after his tractor-trailer struck a concrete barrier median on an interstate highway. The driver was the single occupant of a fully loaded tractor-trailer travelling east at highway speed on a six-lane section of interstate. The truck tractor struck the concrete median in an abrupt steering movement toward the left, and then moved along the concrete median, damaging the drivers-side fuel tank and generating friction and heat, which ignited diesel fuel in the tank. The driver steered to bring the vehicle away from the median and the trailer jackknifed, striking the median with a force that broke sections of median barriers and knocked the rear dual axles off the trailer. The box of the trailer then rode up on top of the median and continued to ride on top of the median as the vehicle moved east. The vehicle came to rest when the trailer flipped onto its left side. The center of the trailer was on top of the median, and the rear of the trailer was on the north side of the median in the inside shoulder of west-bound lanes. The tipping of the trailer twisted the tractor, causing the tractor to rest against the center median with the passenger side elevated. The tractor cab and engine were engulfed in flames. Firefighters responded and extinguished the fire and then located the driver's body outside the cab. The cause of the crash was not determined, but fatigue or distracted driving may be plausible causes. The driver had concluded a cell phone conversation 10 miles west of the crash site. Shortly after this and other similar crashes involving semi-truck drivers, legislation was passed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banning handheld cell phone use while driving a truck involved in interstate commerce. RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. Truck drivers should be trained to recognize signs of fatigue. 2. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles should avoid distracted driving to prevent driver errors and subsequent collisions. 3. Design and selection of truck tractors should incorporate risk of fuel tank location. 4. Maintain a space cushion around the truck to avoid driving too close to stationary objects and other vehicles.
Region-7; Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Work-practices; Truck-drivers; Trucking; Burns; Author Keywords: truck driver; tractor trailer; fire; highway accident; vehicle struck barrier
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-11IA075; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008460
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Iowa Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division