Safety Issues



The Truck Operator  

The semi-truck driver was a 52-year-old high school graduate, who had been employed with the company for 15 years. He moved to the United States from Cuba in 1995 at the age of 32 and worked hard to earn his citizenship. He loved his job because it gave him the opportunity to travel throughout the United States.

View the full report here

The Incident Scene 

The incident scene was a southbound six- lane interstate bridge span, 250 feet above a major river. The stretch of roadway was clear and straight with barrier walls on each side and in the middle to divide the interstate. The bridge was lighted for nighttime travel. The tractor trailer was a 2006 Columbia 120 Freightliner.

Although the bridge span was well lit at night, the incident occurred at 6:15 am (dawn) which may have contributed to the driver being unaware of the large drop to the river. 

The Investigation 

On June 8, 2015, at approximately 6:15 am, a semi-truck driver drove southbound on a major interstate, lost control on a bridge, and struck the right shoulder concrete barrier bridge wall. The vehicle rode the top of the barrier, which caused the passenger side fuel tank to rupture and catch fire. The vehicle came to rest several hundred feet down the roadway with the passenger side leaning over the bridge, continued to burn and then exploded.  Witnesses stated they felt heat from the fire five lanes away. The police arrived 15 minutes later. The southbound lanes were immediately shut down and crews worked quickly to contain the fire. Once the fire was contained, the response team noticed there was no driver inside the cab of the tractor. A team of fire fighters began searching for the driver.

After an extensive search, fire fighters discovered the driver’s body 170 feet below the bridge in a steep, wooded area next to the bank of the river. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

It is believed that the truck driver may have panicked, perhaps smelling smoke, and exited the vehicle through the passenger side window after the truck had come to a stop. He may have fallen directly to his death over the barrier wall, or jumped, hoping to escape the fire. It is possible that smoke from the fire obstructed his vision, or that the low dawn light may have contributed to his lack of awareness of the fall hazard.



•  Manufacturers should consider the redesign and relocation of fuel tanks to reduce risk of penetration and fire.

•  Drivers should always be focused on the road to avoid distracted driving

•  Commercial motor vehicle drivers should be trained to know the signs of fatigue and steps to take to eliminate driving while fatigued.

•  Employers should ensure that their tractor trailers are equipped with fire extinguishers.

Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center
333 Waller Avenue Suite 242
Lexington Kentucky, 40504

Safety Issues is presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Truckers Association (NTA), with major contributions from State partners funded by NIOSH through the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program.  The goal of the FACE program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then developing and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. State partners who contribute Safety Issues postings based on recent investigative reports are California, Iowa, Kentucky Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey and Washington.

This month’s safety issues is based on an investigative report from Kentucky Face Program.  The complete detailed Kentucky FACE INVESTIGATION REPORT: 15KY030 includes additional case information, recommendations and discussion.  This report can be found at  Further information on Kentucky FACE Program, including additional Kentucky FACE Investigation Reports, Hazard Alerts, truck driver training and fatality summaries can be accessed at

The Safety Issues and Investigation Reports which are the products of NIOSH Cooperative State partners are presented here in their original unedited form from the states.  They are intended for educational purposes only.  The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the NIOSH