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Board Meeting - Highway Accident Report – Rollover of a Truck-Tractor and Cargo Tank Semitrailer, Indianapolis, Indiana, October 22, 2009 - Chairman's Opening and Closing Remarks
Deborah A. P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Rollover of a Truck-Tractor and Cargo Tank Semitrailer, Indianapolis, Indiana, October 22, 2009

Good morning. Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind, and Member Earl Weener.

Today we meet in open session, as required by the Government in Sunshine Act, to consider the October 22, 2009, tanker truck rollover accident northeast of Indianapolis. The tanker was carrying liquefied petroleum gas, or liquid propane, and the subsequent fires caused serious injury to two drivers, minor injuries to other drivers, and damage to nine vehicles.

Over the past several weeks, the Board Members have read the proposed report and individually met with NTSB staff to discuss the draft. Today, however, is the first time that all of the Board Members are meeting together to discuss the report.

This morning, staff will make presentations on the major issues of the accident investigation. The presentations will be followed by questions from the Board Members. We will then consider the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Because these are the Board's actual deliberations on the report, it may be revised as a result of actions taken during this meeting. Approximately 30 minutes after we conclude, an abstract of this report will be posted on the NTSB's website.

I would like to recognize and thank the Indiana Police, Fire, and Rescue Departments, who responded to the accident scene, and state our appreciation to the many organizations that assisted in this investigation and our public hearing.

Our role at the Board is investigatory: to uncover the facts and then develop recommendations to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. One fact that was clear from the outset: This was a rollover accident. Another fact is that for more than 40 years the NTSB has been concerned about the integrity of cargo tanks carrying hazardous materials, because rollovers involving these vehicles pose a significant safety risk to the vehicle driver and the motoring public.

Just this past weekend, a tanker truck, transporting 10,000 gallons of gasoline, overturned on northbound Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts, north of Boston. The accident resulted in fatal injuries to the truck driver and injuries to several others. The hazardous materials released during the accident ignited in a storm drain system and the ensuing fire progressed to structures in the area and caused several brush fires. As you can see, tanker truck rollovers can have devastating consequences to the motoring public as well as the surrounding infrastructure.

Last August, the NTSB held a two-day public hearing on the Indianapolis rollover accident that was chaired by Member Sumwalt. We heard from 29 experts on stability control systems, driver training, roadway design, vehicle design, bridge-pier design, and cargo-tank crashworthiness. All of these topics will be discussed today.

In May, the NTSB hosted a two-day forum on truck and bus safety. Experts from across the commercial transportation community spoke about ways to prevent and mitigate accidents. One of the witnesses at that forum was from NHTSA and noted that heavy vehicle loss of control and rollover crashes are "a major cause of fatalities, injuries, and property damage."

Every year, in the United States there are more than 1,300 cargo-tank truck rollovers. Tankers represent about 6 percent of the commercial motor vehicle fleet. However, the rollover rate of cargo tank trucks is more than double that of non-tank trucks and accounts for about one-half of truck driver deaths and nearly one-half of incapacitating injuries. Rollovers account for three-fourths of all cargo tank spills.

These accidents have catastrophic consequences.

This morning, we will hear about the evidence to determine what happened in this cargo tank rollover near Indianapolis on October 22, 2009. We meet today because it is never too late to learn from tragedy and to implement common-sense solutions to prevent similar accidents from happening again.

Dr. Mayer, will you please introduce the staff.