Premium Transportation Staffing, Inc. v. Welker (WCAB); No. 1329 C.D. 2022; filed Nov. 30, 2023; Senior Judge Leavitt

Commonwealth Court holds that a truck driver was not subjected to abnormal working conditions from a minor truck fire that was extinguished in two minutes and without physical injury occurring to anyone.

In his Claim Petition, the claimant alleged he sustained Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in February 2015, when the tractor-trailer he was driving caught fire. While the claimant was driving his vehicle on the turnpike, the “check engine” light came on, and he decided to continue driving to reach a turnpike truck stop about 20 miles away. As he proceeded down the road, a red “engine shutdown” light came on. The claimant pulled the truck onto the shoulder and then witnessed flames outside the truck. Smoke began to enter the claimant’s cab. He ran from the truck and called the employer’s dispatcher. Then, the driver of another truck pulled up behind the claimant’s and put the fire out, using his own fire extinguisher and the extinguisher on the claimant’s truck. The claimant’s truck was subsequently towed. The next day, he drove a replacement truck to Chicago. 

The workers’ compensation judge issued a decision, holding that the claimant did sustain a PTSD injury and awarded benefits to the claimant, up until the date of his IME. The judge found that the claimant was fully recovered as of that date. The claimant and the employer appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which affirmed.

Both the claimant and the employer appealed to the Commonwealth Court. The employer argued the truck fire did not rise to the level of an abnormal working condition. According to the employer, the fire was something that an over-the-road truck driver might expect to occur in the course of his or her employment. The court agreed and found that the truck fire the claimant experienced was not an “extraordinarily unusual” event for him. The court said, in short, the record established that in the claimant’s line of work, truck drivers experience and anticipate fires. The claimant was not trapped inside the cab during the fire. The fire did not result in death or injury to anyone. The court emphasized that this does not mean that all truck fires constitute a normal working condition in the truck driving profession. It simply means that there must be something “extraordinarily unusual” about a truck fire before it can be held to be an abnormal working condition. 


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