After studying 415 commercial livestock trailer accidents in the United States and Canada, Animal-handling Specialist Jennifer Woods cites driver error as the cause 85 percent of the time.

“About 27 percent of these accidents involved swine,” Woods says. “Of the 103 accidents involving swine, 80 percent involved market-weight hogs, 16 percent involved feeder pigs and 3 percent involved sows.”

Most accidents happen at night, with 59 percent occurring between  and October and November are the most common months for accidents. Woods has personally attended 10 livestock transportation accidents.

She emphasizes the need to have a written company policy in place that outlines accident prevention measures, driver training and training for key personnel in how to respond to an animal transport accident.

“These are usually high profile accidents so having a company policy in place is crucial,” Woods says. The company’s training should cover:

  • Animal behavior in stressful situations.
  • Security and safety practices at the accident scene.
  • Clothing and equipment required, including gloves, safety goggles, ear plugs and proper footwear.
  • How to work with police and highway patrol officials.
  • How to remove animals.
  • How to ensure rescuer safety.
  • When, where and how to cut apart a trailer transporting animals.
  • Animal euthanasia policy and procedures.
  • Outline the chain of command for the accident scene.
  • How to handle press inquiries.

Woods offers a few specific recommendations in terms of how to respond to these types of accidents.

  • When you arrive at the scene, turn on hazard flashers and set up flares some distance out to warn drivers. If you can do it safely, clear loose animals off the highway. “Unfortunately, other drivers often don’t slow down,” Woods warns, “so be very careful.”
  • Introduce yourself to police officials. “Don’t attempt to rescue animals until fire officials have cleared the vehicle,” she says.
  • See that workers wear reflective vests and safety equipment.
  • Secure the scene with police and officials. Keep people or on-lookers away. “Human safety always takes precedence over animal welfare in transport accidents,” Woods adds.

You can gather more information by sending an e-mail request to  livestockhandling@mac.com.