Highway Accident Report

Adopted: July 15, 1982
TRUCK ENGINE FUEL TANK PUNCTURE BY BRIDGE
REPAIR PLATE, DIESEL SPILL, AND MULTIPLE
VEHICLE SKIDDING COLLISIONS
INTERSTATE ROUTE 10
LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA
AUGUST 27, 1981

NTSB Number: HAR-82/04
NTIS Number: PB82-916204


SYNOPSIS

About 10:25 p.m. on August 27, 1981, a tractor-semitrailer loaded with steel pipe was traveling eastbound across the Calcasieu River Bridge, a 1¼ -mile long, four-lane divided highway bridge on Interstate 10 at the city limits of Lake Charles, Louisiana. As the truck was descending the east side of the bridge, the tractor's left side fuel tank was struck and penetrated by a dislodged bridge repair plate that had been used to cover a hole in a pavement expansion joint. As a result of about 75 gallons of diesel fuel leaking onto a ½-mile section of the bridge, 26 vehicles were involved in a series of skidding collisions. Three persons were killed, and 18 persons were injured; there were no fires.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the loss of vehicle control on a slippery highway surface, produced by a diesel fuel spill from a truck fuel tank punctured by a dislodged steel plate used as a temporary repair of a bridge expansion joint. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to make a permanent repair at that joint.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board recommends that:

the Federal Highway Administration:

Assist the State of Louisiana in providing a television surveillance system for the section of Interstate 10 which crosses the 1-10, Calcasieu River Bridge. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-22)

Evaluate the current capability of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) to provide timely follow-up to the type of expansion joint repair that caused this accident and similar repairs of relatively high priority on Federal-aid highways. If necessary, assist the LADOTD In resolving discovered problems. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-23)

Advise all State Departments of Transportation of the circumstances of this accident and emphasize the need for repair designs at bridges and all other repair sites that consider operational problems, repair personnel qualifications, and the need for timely follow-up to temporary repairs. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-24)

Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety of the Federal Highway Administration:

Issue an On-Guard Bulletin to advise truckdrivers of the circumstances of this accident, and the potential benefits to be derived from the use of the citizens band radios, when properly used, and encourage positive reaction to messages that are transmitted over this network. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-25)

the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development:

Advise maintenance personnel of the circumstances of this accident and emphasize the need for repair designs at bridges and all other repair sites that consider operational problems, repair personnel qualifications, and the need for timely follow-up to temporary repairs. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-26)

Establish a program to upgrade maintenance welder qualifications through certification in accordance with performance standards promulgated by the American Welding Society. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-27)

Conduct a study to determine if it is structurally and operationally feasible and cost-effective to provide a median opening(s) on the I-10, Calcasieu River Bridge for emergency use. If the study determines that the median openings are feasible and cost effective, immediately provide such an opening on the bridge. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-28)

Publicize the purpose of and need for compliance with the I-10/210 electronic, changeable message sign system through local media. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-82-29)