On a sunny fall day in 2007, a 50-year old semi truck driver hauling processed frozen chicken in a refrigerated trailer, died when his semi crashed into a rock wall. The driver was north bound on an interstate highway when witnesses saw the semi in the left lane contact the concrete median barrier then veer over to the right across one traffic lane and the shoulder, then strike a rock wall. The impact caused the cab to overturn onto the driver’s door while the refrigerated trailer remained standing upright. An exhaust pipe located on the back of the cab was horizontal facing skyward on the cab. The fuel line to the refrigeration unit was damaged in the crash allowing fuel to drip onto the hot exhaust pipe and ignite a fire. Numerous calls reporting the crash were placed to 911 emergency medical services. A man and woman reportedly driving behind the semi witnessed the fire start between the cab and trailer.

Emergency services arrived and found the cab and front of the trailer engulfed in flames. The local coroner was contacted and called to the scene where he declared the driver dead at the scene.

To prevent future occurrences of similar incidents, the following recommendations have been made:

Recommendation No. 1: Semi tractor-trailer drivers should be trained to recognize signs of fatigue and when to seek appropriate rest areas.

Recommendation No. 2: Highway median barriers should be designed with local input of emergency responder management allowing entrance of emergency responder personnel.

Recommendation No. 3: Long-haul semi tractor-trailer drivers should have a network of mechanics along the routes they travel in case mechanical problems arise.

Recommendation No. 4: Employers should require drivers to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections on the tractor and trailer prior to operating them using an expanded Department of Transportation Inspection form.

Recommendation No. 5: Manufacturers of commercial refrigerated trailers should consider a sensor design that shuts off the fuel supply to the refrigeration unit when the fuel line is compromised.

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A summary of this case is available as the additional file listed below.

07KY070_Summary.pdf (39 kB)
Case Summary