Highway Accident Report

Adopted: July 7, 1981
U S. ROUTE 40,
FEBRUARY 18, 1981

NTSB Number: HAR-81/03
NTIS Number: PB81-243917


On February 18, 1981, about 4:10 p.m. eastern standard time, a tractor-semitrailer loaded with building supplies accelerated out of control while descending a steep 3-mile grade near Frostburg, Maryland. The combination vehicle was traveling eastbound on U.S. Route 40 when it passed and sideswiped a slower moving pickup truck in the eastbound lane. The combination vehicle then entered the city limits of Frostburg, Maryland, where it collided with eight vehicles and pushed them into six other vehicles. The semitrailer uncoupled and overturned, and the tractor pushed another vehicle with two occupants into a three-story commercial building before coming to rest. As a result, an explosion and fire erupted in the building. Three persons were killed, and the truckdriver and 11 vehicle occupants were injured. Property damage was estimated at more than $675,000.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the truckdriver to respond to appropriate regulatory and warning signs and to properly use the service brakes and transmission for speed control purposes which permitted the tractor-semitrailer to accelerate to a high rate of speed before entering the city of Frostburg. Contributing to the accident was the improper adjustment of the trailers service brakes due to inadequate vehicle maintenance.


As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has made the following recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration:

Maintain strict surveillance of Direct Transit Lines, Inc., and initiate appropriate enforcement action, if necessary, to ensure that all previous safety compliance violations are corrected. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-81-44)

Initiate a legislative effort which would require lessors and/or contractors of motor vehicle equipment which is used for interstate commerce to comply with all applicable FMCSR. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-81-45)