This case involves a man who suffered injuries while unloading a tractor trailer. The man was on the loading dock when the tractor trailer suddenly, and without warning, pulled away. There were locking devices embedded in the dock with hooks that locked the underride bar in place. In this instance, the lock broke when the trailer pulled away. It is alleged that the lock system was faulty and the unexpected departure of the truck caused the plaintiff to suffer serious injuries. The plaintiff had been unloading wares from the back of the truck when, suddenly, the truck began rolling away from the dock, causing the plaintiff to fall and sustain serious injuries.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What is the responsibility of the truck driver in this situation?
- 2. What experience do you have using this type of restraint?
- 3. Please explain your experience reviewing similar matters.
Expert Witness Response E-037087
Potentially, the driver violated company policy and obviously the loading policy at the shipper’s location. When the shipper does not allow the driver to view loading and securement, this shifts the responsibility to the shipper. The driver should have viewed the dock lights, checked both sides of the truck before moving, pulled forward to secure doors, and applied the seal. I have seen multiple customers with this style restraint over the last several years. At one of the companies I worked for, two similar incidents occurred. My experience has been that OSHA cites the shipper when safety appliances fail or are not utilized and the driver pulls away from the dock. General industry regulations relative to truck loading docks are largely embedded in requirements for Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178). Specific requirements aimed at preventing trailer/dock separation incidents are: 1910.178(k)(1): The brakes of highway trucks shall be set and wheel chocks placed under the rear wheels to prevent the trucks from rolling while they are boarded with powered industrial trucks….and 1910.178(m)(7): Brakes shall be set and wheel blocks shall be in place to prevent movement of trucks, trailers, or railroad cars while loading or unloading.
Expert Witness Response E-009599
The ultimate responsibility here lies with the driver. If the outside bar lock light illuminates red then the driver is to keep the truck stationary. I’ve backed into thousands of docks in my career; I’ve probably backed into docks 150 times or more with these locks. I have been driving commercial vehicles since 1977 with no accidents or violations, and I have taught adults to drive tractor trailers since 1985. I’m a Licensed Massachusetts and New Hampshire tractor trailer driving Instructor. I have extensive training in the Smith system and National Safety Council Professional Truck Driver Defensive Driver program. I am currently the Director of Safety and Training for the largest tractor trailer training school in the Northeast and consult independently as an expert witness.