Highway Accident Report

Adopted: August 8, 1986
JUNE 21, 1985

NTSB Number: HAR-86/03
NTIS Number: PB86-916203


About 7:51 p.m. on June 21, 1985 a privately-owned, 70,000-pounnd tractor-semitrailer operating in interstate commerce under a trip-lease agreement with C. Maxwell Trucking Company, Inc., lost control while descending a steep 3,439-foot-grade on southbound State Route 59 in downtown Van Buren, Arkansas. The truck collided with the rear of and overrode a station wagon which was stopped at the bottom of the hill. The truck and the station wagon continued 84 feet forward, across an intersection, up a curb, and through a guardrail. They then traveled another 22 feet and struck two commercial buildings. A fire ensued and engulfed both vehicles and three buildings. Both occupants in the truck and the seven occupants in the station wagon were fatally injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the truckdriver to comply with regulatory signs and to properly use limited service brakes and transmission for speed control purposes, which permitted the tractor-semitrailer to accelerate to a high speed while descending the steep grade on State Route 59. Contributing to the accident were the improper adjustment of the vehicle’s service brakes due to inadequate vehicle maintenance; the truckdriver’s lack of experience, maturity, and training required for interstate truckdrivers; and the absence of an adequate surveillance and enforcement program for the trucking system.


As a result of its investigation of this accident,, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterated Safety Recommendation H-78-48 Issued on- June 23, 1978, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Develop a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard stating a performance requirement for all newly manufactured commercial foil vehicles to have equipment that would insure brakes being in proper adjustment at all times.

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

--to the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety:

Amend Part 391 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the driver out-of-service criteria to provide for declaring out-of-service at the time and place of a driver/vehicle roadside inspection those drivers who are found to be underage or otherwise disqualified, and encourage States participating in the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program to adopt similar procedures. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-65)

Study the feasibility of implementing a point system for safety inspection violations that in and of themselves are not grounds for a commercial vehicle to be "declared out-of-service," but which would, based on quantity, be cause for declaring a vehicle out-of-service. (Class II Priority Action) (H-86-66)

Oversee and monitor the States which currently participate in the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program and encourage them to adopt and aggressively enforce all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations out-of-service criteria to ensure uniformity. (Class II Priority Action) (H-86-67)

-to the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department:

Provide specific language in work permit specifications that require contractors to maintain highway regulatory signing along roadsides while construction activities are going on. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-70)

-to the Governors of the States of Alaska, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming:

Actively participate in the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-71)