With winter upon us, traveling on snow packed, or icy highways is a common occurrence. In December 2018 two people died in an early morning tractor-trailer pileup on an I-90 west highway outside of Missoula, MT. The pile-up involved five different tractor-trailers.
The first tractor carrying a trailer of lumber started to slid broadside. It ended up dumping its flatbed load of lumber before coming to a stop. Both the trailer and spilled lumber were blocking both eastbound lanes. Thankfully, the driver and passenger were unhurt.
Unfortunately, a couple of minutes later the next oncoming tractor carrying a UPS trailer veered to avoid the lumber. That resulted in the tractor crossing the median and blocking the westbound lanes. The driver was about to get out of the vehicle and stand in the westbound lanes.
As the driver was standing in the westbound lane, another tractor-trailer was approaching. The driver was able to maintain control and brake appropriately. He watched as the driver of the wrecked truck bail thinking he was going to be hit. He went to jump over the bridge rail, which resulted in him falling approximately 40 feet to his death.
Another eastbound truck slammed into one of the trailers which had the driver partially ejected. The driver was transported to a nearby hospital before being airlifted to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
One more truck slid into the mess, but the driver was not injured. After that, the final truck slid into the fourth truck and unfortunately that driver was the second fatality.
All these crashes happened before daylight on a stretch of I-90 that was reported having black ice conditions. One of the first responders who arrived on scene said when he stepped out of his vehicle the road was sheer ice.
Although these accidents occurred a year ago, it is still a critical component of ensuring we properly train tractor-trailer drivers in all weather conditions. Road conditions play a huge factor in truck driving – and making sure drivers are appropriately trained in all circumstances could play an enormous role in their safety. This involves instruction on what to do if your truck overturns on the highway, and the exact protocol for staying in the truck or getting out, etc.