The Commission Held That Truck Driver’s Injuries Sustained After Performing Repairs On His Truck Were Compensable Where Defendant Had Statutory Obligation To Ensure That Vehicles Bearing Its Icc Number

Claimant, an over-the-road truck driver, worked for defendant as an “owner/operator.” He owned and drove his own truck, drove exclusively for defendant and displayed defendant’s decal on his vehicle. He had just returned from a trip the day before and was servicing his vehicle due to several malfunctions. Specifically, claimant testified that he spent about 90 minutes repairing a leaking heater hose, a wiper blade, a cab marker light and a tail light. Upon completing these maintenance tasks, claimant shut the hood and was entering his truck when he slipped on one of the stairs and fell beneath the fuel tanks, breaking his right leg. Claimant testified that he was making the maintenance repairs to ensure a conforming vehicle pursuant to ICC regulations as well as appropriate state laws. Defendant’s agent acknowledged that the broken components were safety items that were subject to federal regulation and that defendant could have been fined if claimant had not repaired them because claimant displayed both defendant’s decal and ICC number on his vehicle.

The arbitrator awarded benefits, finding that claimant’s injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment. The arbitrator noted that defendant had a statutory obligation to ensure that vehicles bearing its ICC number and decal were safe to drive. By repairing and replacing broken lights and other parts, claimant was helping defendant meet that obligation. Also, the arbitrator noted that it was reasonable for defendant to expect that claimant would perform repairs so that he could be available to haul a load the next time defendant needed him to do so.

The arbitrator also found a second basis for concluding that claimant’s accident arose out of his employment-his status as a traveling employee. The arbitrator explained that claimant was acting in a reasonable and foreseeable manner when he began to climb up into the cab of his truck after completing his safety-related repairs. Therefore, his accident was compensable as a “traveling employee.”