Training >> Browse Articles >> Rescue


Big Truck Extrication - Part 2: Assessment and Stabilization

Big Truck Extrication - Part 2: Assessment and Stabilization

David Pease, Carolina Fire/Rescue/EMS Journal

Sometimes I wonder if rescuers realize just how many trucks are actually on our highways traveling each and everyday. My wife and I took a trip out west last Spring to see the Grand Canyon. I decided to drive in order to stop and see other things we might be interested in seeing along the way. Driving from North Carolina to Arizona is quite a trip. I noticed one thing was certain, there a lot of big trucks on our highways. As I got further out west, there were times when the trucks out numbered the cars by three to one. Almost weekly, if not daily, we see truck crashes on the news and some of these wrecks are quite devastating.

In the first article, we took a look at the general construction of big trucks and the types of trailers they may be pulling. Having this understanding, will help the rescuer determine their approach, assessment, stabilization and extrication techniques needed to perform a successful rescue. As with any discipline of rescue we undertake, a good background of what we are dealing with is essential.

Big truck crashes most often occur on the interstates and main highways. This is where they travel most and their speeds are much higher, especially with the bigger engines and more advanced technology. With this usually accompanies a major traffic nightmare. In May of 2004 there was a tractor trailer tanker hauling glue on I-95 just out of Smithfield, NC. The driver struck a passenger van that was pulled off the side of the road. No one in the van was killed, but the truck driver suffered fatal injuries.

Traffic was backed up for miles and was later routed through the town of Smithfield. Since hazmat crews were called in, it was quite some time before the interstate was cleared. During that time another fatal crash occurred in Smithfield because of the routed traffic through town. As you can see, crashes involving large trucks can become much more involved.


We will first take a look at approaching the scene where a big truck or trucks are involved. First, you want to ascertain as much information from the 911 dispatcher as possible. Besides the location and number of vehicles involved, what the truck may be carrying or what type of truck it may be. (Tanker, cargo trailer, livestock, etc.) Knowing the different types of trailers that are on the road, we can start to assess our situation before we arrive, if that information is available.

As with any rescue call, you probably have already started running scenarios through your head as to how you want to handle things once you arrive. By knowing what type of truck is involved, this may also dictate how you approach and where you approach from. Some years ago, we had a fully loaded fuel tanker turn over and rupture a valve, where fuel was leaking across a four lane intersection, a small store parking lot, and then into a drainage ditch.

Read the other parts of this column:
- Big Truck Extrication – Part 1: Anatamy 101
- Big Truck Extrication – Part 3: The Extrication