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Safety Alert: Chip Trailer Breaks Apart

An (undetected) rotten chip trailer floor shattered, and broke in half and collapsed near its midpoint, beyond where the support beams ended.

By Staff
Date Posted: 6/1/2011

Personal Characteristics

            The 58-year-old truck driver had more than 30 years of truck-driving experience. He had pulled several loads using this trailer without any problems or incidents.


Unsafe Conditions

            The chip trailer was an older, 45-foot wooden-floor model (probably converted for chip hauling) that at some point had developed a leaky roof. The wooden floor originally provided support strength for the frame of the trailer. The roof had been repaired over time, but the floor was still damaged from past rains. There were two large beams under the trailer holding the axles, but they did not run the length of the trailer. The gross weight of the loaded trailer was unknown.



            As the driver pulled away from the sawmill, he hit a small hole in the log yard. The (undetected) rotten floor shattered, and then the remaining frame of the trailer quickly proved unable to withstand the weight of the chips. The trailer broke in half and collapsed near its midpoint, beyond where the support beams ended.



            No one was injured, although the trailer was damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, the truck had not yet made it to the public road.



            • Inspect trucks and trailers before loading and in detail at the beginning of every work shift. Complete repairs before placing vehicles/trailers in service. It is also a good practice for a mechanic to inspect the chip trailer annually and to check all trailer safety items when the tractor inspection is due.

            • Inspect the floor for wood rot or other damage that can weaken the trailer’s structural integrity. If the roof of a trailer starts to leak, fix it promptly. (Obviously, using more modern, purpose-built chip trailers would not present the wooden-floor maintenance challenges.)

            • Ensure that any trailer modifications do not compromise safety. Support beams underneath the trailer should run the length of the floor. Do not exceed the trailer’s load capacity.

            Source: Forest Products Resources


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