Highway Accident Report

CoCollision Between Truck-Tractor
Semitrailer and School Bus
Near Mountainburg, Arkansas
on May 31, 2001

NTSB Number HAR-02/03
NTIS Number PB2002-916203


On May 31, 2001, about 3:28 p.m. central daylight time, a southbound Gayle Stuart Trucking, Inc., truck-tractor semitrailer exited Interstate 540 at State Highway 282 near Mountainburg, Arkansas. The driver was unable to stop at the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. The 79,040-pound combination unit was traveling approximately 48 mph when it entered the intersection and collided with the right side of a westbound, 65-passenger, 1990 Blue Bird Corporation school bus operated by the Mountainburg, Arkansas, Public Schools. The school bus rotated approximately 300 degrees clockwise and overturned; the body, which partially separated from the chassis, came to rest on its right side on the eastbound shoulder of State Highway 282. The tractor semitrailer continued across the roadway, rotated about 60 degrees clockwise, overturned, and came to rest on its left side.

Three school bus passengers seated across from the impact area were fatally injured; one was partially ejected. Two other passengers, one of whom was seated in the impact area, received serious injuries, and four passengers had minor injuries. The school bus driver and the truckdriver both sustained minor injuries.

The Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the truckdriver’s inability to stop the tractor semitrailer at the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp due to the reduced braking efficiency of the truck’s brakes, which had been poorly maintained and inadequately inspected. Contributing to the school bus passengers’ injuries during the side impact were incomplete compartmentalization and the lack of energy-absorbing material on interior surfaces.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are the poor condition of the tractor semitrailer brakes, inadequate motor carrier inspections and oversight, the use of propane tanks on school buses, and occupant protection within school buses.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the National Fire Protection Association, and spring brake manufacturers. The Safety Board reiterates a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Transportation.