Safety Alert: Driver Escapes Serious Injury After Brakes Fail

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It was a cloudy, late fall day in the Appalachians. A truck driver was delivering pulpwood to a mill. The driver was going downhill, on an 8 percent grade, toward the wood yard.

Personal Characteristics

The truck driver was 55 years old and the owner-operator of the truck. He had been working for 36 years in trucking, was fully trained, had no record of disabilities or accidents, and he used his PPE regularly.

Unsafe Act of Condition

Prior to leaving the job, the driver neglected to adjust or check the brakes on the tractor or trailer.


The driver was delivering pulpwood to the mill and had just weighed in at the scale house. He was driving downhill, on an 8 percent grade, toward the wood yard for unloading. As he approached a curve, he discovered the brakes were not working, and he could not negotiate a turn. He kept driving straight into the old part of the mill, which was no longer in use. The driver jumped out of the cab just before the truck came to rest, leaning at a 45-degree angle against a metal tower. The tower stopped the load from tipping over completely.


The driver suffered a sprained knee from exiting the truck cab while it was moving. He was not hospitalized. His knee was treated with ice for swelling.

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Recommendations for Correction

Always do a walk-around of the truck and visually check the load. Check all brake adjustments for the proper settings before beginning a trip. Make sure to pull over and check the brakes prior to starting into any steep, downhill grades. The driver should remain alert and vigilant whenever driving roads that present unique hazards. Always use a seatbelt.

Source: Forest Resources Association