Whose responsibility was it?

A company driver was driving a crew alongside the railroad tracks two weeks ago, when one of the crew members told him to drive on the other side of the railroad tracks. It was dark that night and snow covered most of the ground. So, when the driver crossed to the other side and drove along the flat, snow covered “road”, he was very surprised when the van crashed through the ice into the drainage ditch.

Two weeks later, after trying a tow truck and bobcat with no success, a nearby landfill pulled the van out with a bulldozer. Unfortunately, the van will now need some expensive repairs and the driver has no work vehicle. This all brings up a very important question. Who was responsible for what happened that night?

Was it the crew member’s fault? He was the one who told the driver to go to the other side of the tracks. And if the driver had never been there before, he would need to rely on the knowledge of the crew member to know the lay of the land. And when you are hired to transport people, you do what they ask, right?

Was it the driver’s fault? Every driver is responsible to make sure the vehicle and it’s occupants are safe at all times. And every driver should use common sense. But it is difficult for me to blame the driver for doing what he was told especially under the circumstances.

So what is the correct answer? It is not always easy to know what to do in difficult situations. But knowing what happened to this driver, it isn’t as important to know who was responsible than to know what to do if you face a similar situation. Instead of doing what you are told, you might stop for a moment and ask a question. “Sir, are you sure this is a road?” Or you might say, “I am going to step outside and check the road before going any further.” And if necessary, you might go So far as to say, “I am sorry if it causes you a problem but I do not feel comfortable driving down there. You will have to walk from here.”

Most drivers wouldn’t feel comfortable causing a conflict. It is easier to do what you are told than to get into an argument. But I would imagine that every driver would also like to have a van to drive the next day instead of waiting 2-3 weeks while their van is being repaired. Think about that the next time you are asked to do something questionable. Your ability to say no may make a big difference. Be prepared.

3 Comments

    1. If nothing was damaged, there would be no need to write this post. But the incident caused a lot of problems: (1) the towing company damaged the railroad tracks area, (2) the sheriff got involved, (3) I sat in the back of the patrol car as a company representative, (4) the van has been out of business and making no money since Christmas, (5) the van’s rear axle was bent while being pulled out of the frozen mud and ice, and (6) we don’t know the extent of the damages of sitting in water for that period of time. Yes, it is a learning experience, but at what cost?

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