Last week, one of our drivers drove a straight truck under a low tree branch and scalped the entire top of the truck’s box. Unfortunately these things happen. We’ve had trucks get stuck under low bridges, underpasses, etc.
Now, I’m as human as the next driver, and I caused my own share of fender-benders during my days as an over-the-road tractor driver. This driver, however, heard the undeniably deafening sound of a huge tree branch hitting the top of the box and…kept driving. Kept driving far enough for this massive branch to rip open the entire top of the box.
When you hear a loud noise, STOP DRIVING.
In the vast majority of low clearance situations, the accident is preventable if the driver stays aware of his or her surroundings and uses a little common sense. We tell drivers time and time again not to blindly follow a GPS device. It doesn’t matter if your GPS is marketed as a special device for truckers—it is not going to be 100% accurate all the time. There are always going to be road closures, accidents, construction, detours, new roadways, acts of God, and yes—growing trees.
In last week’s case, the driver refused to accept responsibility for the accident, claiming it was the fault of the co-driver’s GPS device. Given the lack of self-driving trucks in the Tempus fleet, this accident was 100% the driver’s fault.
You cannot blame a GPS device when you failed to be aware of your surroundings.
The situation worsened when I saw the accident scene photos. The “road” the driver was traveling on was in no way suitable for a commercial vehicle. I’d call it a narrow country lane.
Thankfully it was only a tree this driver encountered and not another vehicle with people inside! I cannot reiterate this point enough and it seems to trip up even our best drivers: do not blindly trust any GPS device.
Always double-check your routes and be very conservative about where you drive a large commercial vehicle.
This accident and damage alone were not cause to terminate the driver. A number of years ago, we had a driver hit a tollbooth median on her first day in the truck. She took responsibility for her role in the accident and went on to become one of the best drivers in our fleet for the next two years. Last week’s driver’s attitude and reaction to the situation was the fatal blow. Unfortunately, the co-driver subsequently gave two weeks’ notice. The situation and abuse from the driver who caused the accident soured the co-driver on team driving altogether.
Your actions and reactions have the potential to negatively influence everyone around you—particularly your team driver in a truck.
Please stay safe and aware out there on the road.