At 10:50 a.m. on October 13, 2003, a 1992 Neoplan USA Corporation 49-passenger motorcoach, owned and operated by the First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas, was traveling eastbound on Interstate 20 near Tallulah, Louisiana. The motorcoach, carrying 14 passengers, was en route from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as part of a multicity sightseeing tour that had originated in Eldorado. As the motorcoach approached milepost 168, it drifted rightward from the travel lanes and onto the shoulder, where it struck the rear of a 1988 Peterbilt tractor semitrailer operated by Alpha Trucking, Inc., which was stopped on the shoulder at milepost 167.9. As both vehicles moved forward, the motorcoach rotated clockwise slightly and the semitrailer rotated counter-clockwise slightly; the vehicles remained together. They traveled approximately 62 feet and came to rest, still oriented to the east, adjacent to the right side of the interstate on the outside shoulder. Eight motorcoach passengers sustained fatal injuries, the motorcoach driver and six passengers received serious injuries, and the Peterbilt driver was not injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the motorcoach driver's operation of the motorcoach in a reduced state of alertness due to fatigue as a result of his chronic insomnia and poor quality sleep. Further contributing to the accident was the failure of Alpha Trucking, Inc., to perform vehicle maintenance and to provide safety management controls, which resulted in the accident tractor semitrailer being parked on the interstate shoulder. Contributing to the severity of the injuries was the failure of the motorcoach seat anchorages.
The safety issues identified in this accident are:
- Driver fatigue,
- Adequacy of State and Federal oversight of motor carriers,
- Identification and appropriate use of speed-restricted tires on motorcoaches,
- Criteria for State and Federal annual inspections of motorcoach passenger seating anchorage points, and
- Performance standards for motorcoach passenger seating anchorages.
As a result of this accident investigation, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and Neoplan USA Corporation.