By Chris Frazier, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterAugust 21, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 21, 2018) - It was a typical start to a convoy movement as the Soldiers set out to provide support at a multiple unit training assembly. Before reaching the training site, however, the company was involved in a three-vehicle accident, resulting in the death of a Soldier.
Sequence of events:
Preparations for the movement began about a week prior to the training assembly, with the assignment of a convoy commander and identifying drivers and truck commanders. Once at the training site, the company would provide Class I, Class III, Class V and maintenance support for squad lane training, as well as conduct scheduled maintenance on selected vehicles and limited driver training. To accomplish the mission, the company planned to convoy 13 vehicles the 167 miles to the training location. The remainder of the company would travel by commercial bus.
On the morning of the movement, the Soldiers arrived to conduct preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicles and have their military driver licenses verified. One assigned driver did not have a military license, however, so the company readiness NCO instructed the TC to drive the vehicle. Following PMCS, the assistant convoy commander staged the vehicles in preparation for the movement.
Prior to departure, the convoy commander provided the safety briefing. The briefed vehicle speed was 55 mph, with a catch-up speed of 60 mph. He also instructed drivers to maintain a 50- to 100-meter following distance between vehicles. The convoy commander then distributed strip maps to each TC, which included the vehicle breakdown plan and a number for a group chat using a smartphone application. This would allow the TCs to maintain communication with the convoy commander.
The convoy departed at 0830 with an M1083-series truck towing a Standard Automotive Tool Set trailer leading the way. Immediately following the lead vehicle were three M1120 Load Handling System trucks.
The first two hours of the movement were uneventful as the company made a planned stop at a roadway travel center. There, the Soldiers topped off their vehicles with fuel and were given time to eat. Unbeknownst to the convoy commander, the occupants in the third LHS truck made an unauthorized driver change, despite the fact the new driver was unlicensed and inexperienced in the M1120.
About 90 miles from the fuel stop, the convoy encountered a traffic signal at an intersection. As the first LHS approached, the traffic light changed from green to yellow, so the driver brought the truck to a stop. The second LHS operator also stopped. The unlicensed driver of the third LHS, however, did not react quickly enough and was unable to stop, striking the rear of the vehicle ahead of him at 50-55 mph. The impact pushed the second vehicle into the M149A1 water trailer towed by the first LHS.
The Soldiers in the first and second vehicles immediately dismounted to check on the driver and TC in the third LHS. Another TC called 911 and sent out a group text notifying the chain of command of the crash. When members of the convoy, including combat lifesavers, arrived at the third vehicle, they found the driver dead and the TC unconscious and trapped in the truck's crushed cab. Local firefighters used an extrication tool to free the TC, who was then transported to an area hospital for treatment for an ankle injury. Four Soldiers in the other two vehicles suffered minor injuries. In addition, an LHS and water trailer were destroyed, and two other LHS trucks were damaged.
What can the Army do?
• Leaders must ensure TCs fully understand their responsibilities in assisting drivers with the safe operations of a vehicle. In this incident, a TC allowed an unlicensed and inexperienced Soldier drive an M1120 LHS.
• Leaders must ensure drivers have the required experience to operate their military vehicles in dense traffic conditions. They must also ensure personnel assigned to drive do not let anyone else operate the vehicle unless directed by the convoy commander.
• Leaders must develop and disseminate a standard operating procedure for convoy movements.
• Leaders must incorporate the five steps of risk management into all aspects of the military decision-making process and future convoy movements.
The Army relies on convoy movements to accomplish its missions in both training and combat. While on-duty vehicle fatalities have declined in over the past decade, leaders and Soldiers must remain vigilant regarding safe driving. Driver's training, leader engagement and individual responsibility all help keep complacency at bay and ensure Soldiers carry out their vehicle missions to standard.