The National Transportation Safety Board adopted a final report today of a rear-end chain collision traffic accident in Michigan that highlights the dangers posed by drivers who fail to obtain adequate rest. The Board issued three recommendations aimed at improving data collection and monitoring of hours-of-service (HOS) compliance.
On July 16, 2004, at about 12:00 p.m., near Chelsea, Michigan, a Kenworth tractor towing a Hyundai trailer, owned by Equity Transportation Company (Equity), was traveling East on I-94 at an estimated speed of 60 mph, when the driver failed to react in time upon encountering a queue of slow moving traffic. As a result, the Kenworth tractor collided with a Sterling tractor towing a Great Dane semitrailer, which, in turn, was propelled into a Saturn station wagon. As a result of the collision, the driver of the Kenworth tractor was killed and the driver of the Sterling tractor and a passenger in the Saturn sustained minor injuries.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the Kenworth driver's failure to stop upon encountering traffic congestion in a temporary traffic control zone, likely due to a reduced state of alertness associated with failure to obtain adequate rest.
Contributing to the accident was the insufficient regard for and lack of oversight of compliance with Federal commercial motor vehicle HOS regulations by the truck's owner, Equity, which endangered the safety of its drivers and the traveling public. Also contributing was the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) failure to require tamperproof driver's logs, as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation's failure to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis as part of a bridge rehabilitation project.
"For the past 30 years, the Safety Board has advocated the use of on-board data recorders to improve hours-of-service compliance," NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said. "The technology is available and is proven - now it's time to use it to make our roadways safer."
Federal regulations mandate restrictions on the number of cumulative hours of driving allowed following consecutive hours off duty, the number of hours on duty allowed following hours off duty, and the number of consecutive days on duty permitted. The NTSB's investigation into this accident revealed that the driver had exceeded the maximum continuous duty hours allowed by Federal regulations.
The Board found that Equity's practices of not using bound paper logs with sequentially numbered pages and of not collecting and retaining electronic supporting documentation to verify the accuracy of its drivers' HOS records facilitated the accident driver's violation of federal HOS regulations, which led to his operating his vehicle in a condition of reduced alertness. Previous FMCSA compliance reviews resulted in enforcement action against Equity for a series of violations of HOS regulations. Board investigators conducted a post-accident review of paper logs and supporting documents that revealed additional violations, including false entries and noncompliance with other driving rules. As a result, the Board recommended that Equity implement a driver log review program that accounts for, tracks, and audits all modifications to paper logs and that also collects and retains all available electronic supporting documentation to verify compliance with Federal commercial driver HOS regulations.
Because information on paper logs can be so easily tampered with, the Board recommended that the FMCSA mandate industry- wide installation and use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) as a more accurate, valid, and secure method of recording driver hours of service information. Furthermore, the Board recommended that, as an interim measure, the FMCSA mandate that carriers adopt a more tamperproof paper log system that, at a minimum, includes the retention of all original and corrected paper logs and the use of bound and sequentially numbered logs.
Contributing to the collision, the Board noted, was the failure of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis for the highway maintenance project. MDOT has since informed the Board that it would conduct merge traffic capacity analyses for all significant work zone projects by October 2007 as part of an effort to comply with new Federal regulations covering work zone safety and mobility.
A synopsis of the Board's report, including a complete listing of conclusions and recommendations, is available on the Highways Publications page of the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov. The Board's full report will be available on the website in a few weeks.