Runaway Trailers

Necessary precaution must be taken when you attach a trailer. Trailers should be properly hitched to the towing vehicle. Use safety chains and attach the lighting connector. Make sure signal lights work properly. This is crucial for spotting the trailers especially at night. Inspect tires and wheel bearings before each use. Make sure bearings are properly lubricated. If the trailer has brakes inspect them daily and make sure all connections are intact.

It is critical that the trailer is securely coupled to the hitch, and that the safety chains are correctly attached. Uncoupling may result in death or serious injury. Proper selection and condition of the coupler and hitch ball are essential to safe towing of the trailer. A loss of coupling may result in death or serious injury.

Precautions to avoid Runaway trailer situation:
  • Make sure the hitch load rating is equal to, or greater than the load rating of the coupler.
  • Make sure the hitch ball size matches the coupler size.
  • Observe the hitch for wear, corrosion and cracks before coupling. Replace worn, corroded or cracked hitch components before coupling the trailer to the tow vehicle.
  • Be sure the hitch components are tight before coupling the trailer to the tow vehicle.
Do not move the trailer until:
  • The coupler is secured and locked to hitch.
  • The safety chains are secured to the tow vehicle.
  • The trailer jack(s) are fully retracted.
Mechanical failure of rock truck results in fatal runaway

A young worker was operating an articulating rock truck (ART) that was hauling rock from a blast site. The brakes failed while the truck was traveling down a newly constructed steep logging road (23 percent). To slow the truck down, the operator drove it into a ditch. The ART tipped onto its box and slid down the ditch line until the cab struck a large rock outcrop. The driver was ejected and was struck by a large rock that was thrown from the truck’s load resulting in fatally injuring the driver..

The investigators found that a rear-axle torque rod had broken away from the housing because of a badly done welding repair job. Excessive movement of the box may have cut the rear brake line and air line. The front brakes and the partial use of the center-axle brakes were not able to stop the truck as it gained speed on the steep hill.

Runaway truck overturns, killing driver

An articulating dump truck filled with debris was being driven downhill when the driver lost control. He radioed for help on how to stop the truck. The truck increased speed before veering off into the bank and rolling over. The driver received severe head injuries and later died in hospital. It was the driver’s first day at this worksite and the extent of his experience and qualifications had not been properly assessed. Through his work as a shop/mechanic helper and spare driver, he had some experience driving articulating dump trucks. However, he had little experience driving loaded articulating trucks on steep logging roads, and he did not have an appropriate license for operating an off-road vehicle.

Such incidents could be avoided by taking necessary precautions:
  • Replace defective integral parts, such as torque rods connected to the running gear, rather than making temporary repairs.
  • If at all any are to be made, use a qualified person to perform welding repairs to the appropriate standard.
  • Repair and maintain equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and any standards the equipment is required to meet.
  • Provide instruction and training to workers on all equipment they are required to operate.
  • Provide written work procedures for emergencies such as a runaway vehicle.
  • Ensure that there is adequate supervision at the worksite, especially for new workers.
  • Hold crew talks and safety meetings to discuss hazards on the worksite.
  • Take care that only licensed drivers operate the vehicles.
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