Highway Accident Report

Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Rear-End Collision Into Passenger Vehicles On Interstate 44

Near Miami, Oklahoma
June 26, 2009

NTSB Number: HAR-10-02
NTIS Number: PB2010-916202
PDF

Executive Summary

On June 26, 2009, a multivehicle accident occurred on Interstate 44 (I-44) near Miami, Oklahoma, shortly after a minor accident in the same vicinity occurred. The minor accident took place about 1:13 p.m., when a 2001 Ford Focus traveling eastbound at milepost 321.7 on I-44 drifted into a truck-tractor semitrailer parked on the right shoulder. After the Focus sideswiped the semitrailer, the car's driver overcorrected to the left, lost control, and struck the concrete center median barrier. The Focus came to rest in the roadway, blocking the left eastbound lane. As the trailing traffic began to slow and stop, it formed a queue. Several motorists exited their vehicles and began to push the disabled Focus to the right shoulder. The queue of stopped vehicles and approaching but slowing vehicles extended back from the accident site approximately 1,500 feet to about milepost 321.5.

Meanwhile, about 1:19 p.m., a 76-year-old truck driver operating a 2008 Volvo truck-tractor in combination with an empty 2009 Great Dane refrigerated semitrailer was traveling eastbound in the outside (right) lane of I-44 at approximately 69 mph. (The posted speed limit was 75 mph.) The truck driver did not react to the queue of slowing and stopped vehicles and collided with the rear of a 2003 Land Rover sport utility vehicle (SUV). As both vehicles moved forward, the Land Rover struck a 2003 Hyundai Sonata and then departed the right lane and shoulder, coming to rest off the roadway. The Volvo continued forward, struck and overrode the Hyundai Sonata, struck and overrode a 2004 Kia Spectra, and then struck the rear of a 2000 Ford Windstar minivan. The Volvo overrode a portion of the Windstar while pushing it into the rear of a livestock trailer being towed by a 2004 Ford F350 pickup truck. The pickup truck was pushed forward and struck a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. The Volvo combination unit came to rest approximately 270 feet past the point where it initially struck the Land Rover. As a result of the Volvo combination unit's striking the slowed and stopped vehicle queue on I-44, 10 passenger vehicle occupants died, 5 received minor-to-serious injuries, and the driver of the Volvo combination unit was seriously injured.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the Volvo truck driver's fatigue, caused by the combined effects of acute sleep loss, circadian disruption associated with his shift work schedule, and mild sleep apnea, which resulted in the driver's failure to react to slowing and stopped traffic ahead by applying the brakes or performing any evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with the traffic queue. Contributing to the severity of the accident were the Volvo truck-tractor combination unit's high impact speed and its structural incompatibility with the passenger vehicles.

The following safety issues are identified in this report:

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is making four recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), four to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and one to Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. The NTSB also reiterates and reclassifies one recommendation to the U.S. Department of Energy and two recommendations to NHTSA, reiterates two recommendations to the FMCSA and one recommendation to NHTSA, and reclassifies one recommendation to NHTSA.

Recommendations

New Recommendations

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Create educational materials that provide current information on fatigue and fatigue countermeasures and make the materials available in different formats, including updating and redistributing your truck-driver-focused driver fatigue video; make the video available electronically for quicker dissemination; and implement a plan to regularly update the educational materials and the video with the latest scientific information and to regularly redistribute them. (H-10-8)

Require all motor carriers to adopt a fatigue management program based on the North American Fatigue Management Program guidelines for the management of fatigue in a motor carrier operating environment. (H-10-9)

Require all heavy commercial vehicles to be equipped with video event recorders that capture data in connection with the driver and the outside environment and roadway in the event of a crash or sudden deceleration event. The device should create recordings that are easily accessible for review when conducting efficiency testing and systemwide performance-monitoring programs. (H-10-10)

Require motor carriers to review and use video event recorder information in conjunction with other performance data to verify that driver actions are in accordance with company and regulatory rules and procedures essential to safety. (H-10-11)

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

To improve highway vehicle crash compatibility, develop performance standards for front underride protection systems for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds. (H-10-12) (This recommendation supersedes Safety Recommendation H-06-16 and is classified "Open-Unacceptable Response.")

After establishing performance standards for front underride protection systems for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds, require that all such newly manufactured trucks be equipped with front underride protection systems meeting the performance standards. (H-10-13)

Develop and implement minimum performance standards for event data recorders for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds that address, at a minimum, the following elements: data parameters to be recorded; data sampling rates; duration of recorded event; standardized or universal data imaging interface; data storage format; and device and data survivability for crush, impact, fluid exposure and immersion, and thermal exposure. The standards should also require that the event data recorder be capable of capturing and preserving data in the case of a power interruption or loss, and of accommodating future requirements and technological advances, such as flashable and/or reprogrammable operating system software and/or firmware updates. (H-10-14)

After establishing performance standards for event data recorders for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds, require that all such vehicles be equipped with event data recorders meeting the standards. (H-10-15)

To Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc.:

Create and implement a comprehensive fatigue management program using existing sources of information, and develop a systematic process to update the program as more guidance becomes available. (H-10-16)

Previously Issued Recommendations Reiterated and Reclassified in This Report

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates and reclassifies the following safety recommendations:

To the U.S. Department of Energy:

Report to the National Transportation Safety Board the 21st Century Truck Partnership's plans and timetable for prioritizing research, testing, and design enhancements that address heavy truck aggressivity. (H-06-15)

Safety Recommendation H-06-15 is reclassified "Open-Unacceptable Response" in the "Vehicle Occupant Survival, Heavy Vehicle Aggressivity" Analysis section of this report.

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Complete rulemaking on adaptive cruise control and collision warning system performance standards for new commercial vehicles. At a minimum, these standards should address obstacle detection distance, timing of alerts, and human factors guidelines, such as the mode and type of warning. (H-01-6)

Safety Recommendation H-01-6 is reclassified "Open-Unacceptable Response" in the "Forward Collision Warning Systems" Analysis section of this report.

After promulgating performance standards for collision warning systems for commercial vehicles, require that all new commercial vehicles be equipped with a collision warning system. (H-01-7)

Safety Recommendation H-01-7 is reclassified "Open-Unacceptable Response" in the "Forward Collision Warning Systems" Analysis section of this report.

Previously Issued Recommendations Reiterated in This Report

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Develop and implement a plan to deploy technologies in commercial vehicles to reduce the occurrence of fatigue-related accidents. (H-08-13)

Develop and use a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of the fatigue management plans implemented by motor carriers, including their ability to improve sleep and alertness, mitigate performance errors, and prevent incidents and accidents. (H-08-14)

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Determine whether equipping commercial vehicles with collision warning systems with active braking and electronic stability control systems will reduce commercial vehicle accidents. If these technologies are determined to be effective in reducing accidents, require their use on commercial vehicles. (H-08-15)

Previously Issued Recommendation Reclassified in This Report

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reclassifies the following safety recommendation:

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Include heavy vehicles in your research, testing, and eventual rulemaking on highway vehicle incompatibility, especially as that incompatibility affects the severity of accidents. (H-06-16)

Safety Recommendation H-06-16 is reclassified "Closed-Unacceptable Action/Superseded" (superseded by Safety Recommendation H-10-12) in the "Vehicle Occupant Survival, Heavy Vehicle Aggressivity" Analysis section of this report.