Highway Accident Report

Adopted: January 21, 1981
JUNE 5, 1980

NTSB Number: HAR-81/01
NTIS Number: PB81-178410


On June 51, 1980, about 12:47 a.m., a northbound Central Texas Bus Lines, Inc. charter bus occupied by the driver and 32 passengers accelerated out of control while descending a long, curved, steep grade on State Route 7 about 1 mile South of Jasper, Arkansas. The bus failed to negotiate a left curve, and ran off the right pavement edge into a drainage channel. The bus continued for 280 feet, impacted a berm at a concrete covert, was redirected across the highways and vaulted down a steep embankment. Twenty bus occupants, including the driver, were killed and 13 passengers were injured.

The National Tansportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a combination of circumstances which resulted in the driver's inability to control the bus as it descended a steep, winding grade. These circumstances included driver fatigue, reduced fuel flow from a nonstandard fuel pump which adversely affected the busdriver's ability to downshift, and the improperly maintained airbrake system. Contributing to the accident was the management decision which permitted dispatching of a driver with inadequate time to complete the trip within permissible hours and the carrier's inadequate preventive maintenance program for this bus.


During its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended, on July 28, 1980, that the State of Arkansas:

Install signing on State Route 7 that requires northbound trucks, buses, and cars with trailers to pull off and check their brakes at the brake check area south of Jasper. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-80-45)

Install a sign(s) in the brake check area to inform the drivers of these vehicles of the roadway alignment ahead. The sign(s) should include percentage of grades, length of grades, horizontal curvature, maximum safe speeds, and other pertinent information which will aid motorists to safely negotiate the roadway ahead. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-80-46)

On September 2, 1980, the State of Arkansas informed the Safety Board that these recommendations had been complied with on August 27, 1980. (See appendix C.) Because of the amount of information to be listed on the sign suggested by recommendation H-80-46, the State chose the message "Highway 7 Very Crooked and Steep Next 2 Miles" in lieu of listing specific grades and curvature. Also, all signs on this section of Highway 7 have been replaced and the escape ramp has been opened.

As a result of its complete investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board made the following additional recommendations:

-to the State of Arkansas:

Correct the drainage channel hazard at the accident site and, whenever feasible, take action to ensure that all highway drainage channels conform to the recommendations of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-81-10)

--to the Federal Highway Administration:

Develop national standards for the signing of brake check areas. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-81-11)

Conduct research to develop guidelines for the location and illumination of brake check areas. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-81-12)

-to the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety:

Maintain strict surveillance of the Central Texas Bus Lines, Inc., operations and maintenance procedures to ensure that all facility survey deficiencies are corrected. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-81-13)

Issue an ON GUARD Bulletin, with emphasis on distribution to charter bus companies, outlining the particulars of this accident relating to drivers' hours of service and other safety-related matters, and recommending that charter bus contracts include a statement that all tours will be restricted on a daily basis to the mileage that can be safely traveled at legal speeds and within the authorized 10-hour driving time. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-81-14)

Give appropriate consideration to the identification of violations and enforcement of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations pertaining to Hours of Service of Drivers, Maintenance of Vehicles, and other carrier safety matters in developing the annual BMCS Work Schedule. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-81-15)

-to the National Tour Brokers Association:

Inform member tour brokers of the particulars of this accident and encourage them in their contract negotiations with passenger carriers who have Interstate Commerce Commission operating authority to emphasize the importance of the carrier's compliance with all safety regulations. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-81-16)