NTSB recommends salvo of new truck safety rules

WASHINGTON — Concluding a yearlong investigation of a multi-vehicle truck-involved accident in Oklahoma last year, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that urged regulators to require heavy trucks be equipped with video event recorders and mandate that all carriers implement a fatigue management program, among other recommendations.

The NTSB also said that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s fatigue educational materials, based on a North American Fatigue Management Program, needs to be improved and routinely and updated online.

It reiterated previous recommendations that the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop standards and complete rules for deployment of collision warning systems on new commercial vehicles like adaptive cruise control and collision warning systems and, perhaps eventually, active braking systems, electronic stability control (ESC) and other technologies to reduce fatigue- related accidents.

The Board also called for continued research and testing for "an eventual rulemaking" related to highway trucks’ impact speed and "structural incompatibility" with passenger vehicles — namely, better energy-absorbing under-ride protection for trucks.

As well, added the NTSB, the U.S. Department of Energy should report to NHSTA under the 21st Century Trucks Partnership Plan for prioritizing research and design enhancements that address "heavy truck aggressivity."

The report stems from the NTSB’s finding that truck driver fatigue was to blame for a horrific crash that claimed 10 lives near Tulsa on June 26, 2009.

The driver, 76 year-old Donald L. Creed, plowed into a line of vehicles that were already stopped as a result of another accident in which an 18-year-old passenger car driver drifted into a parked transport truck on the shoulder and crashed into a concrete median barrier.

Investigators said Creed was fatigued, most likely as a result of a sleep apnea condition, when he crashed into the queue of cars, killing 10 occupants and injuring six others, including himself.

Creed, who plead guilty to 10 counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced last month to 30 days in jail, reportedly never applied brakes or performed any evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with traffic, the report stated.

While the investigation focused on driver fatigue, The NTSB found that contributing to the severity of the accident, among other things, were the tractor-trailer’s high impact speed and its structural incompatibility with passenger vehicles.

"This crash points out the need for three important actions by federal regulators that would go a long way to reducing this type of accident on our roadways — a fatigue management system would have helped the driver get the rest he needed to perform well behind the wheel, event recorders would have provided our investigators with the details about the crash once it occurred, and a collision warning system would have significantly reduced the likelihood that this accident could have ever happened," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

"The time to act on all three of these safety fundamentals is now so that this kind of horrific tragedy will not occur again."

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