Highway Accident Report

Adopted: June 19, 1987
Intercity Tour Bus
Loss of Control and Rollover
into the West Walker River,
Walker, California
May 30, 1986

NTSB Number: HAR-87/04
NTIS Number: PB87-916205


SYNOPSIS

About 10:10 a.m. Pacific daylight time on May 30, 1986, a southbound intercity charter bus operated by Starline Sightseeing Tours, Inc. went out of control while negotiating an S-curve on U.S. Route 395, about 11 miles south of Walker, California. The two-way, two-lane, mountainous roadway was clear and dry. The bus initially crossed the center line to the left and then veered back across the roadway, onto the right shoulder. The bus then swerved left and right again, and its rear struck a rock retaining fence on the right shoulder. Continuing forward, the bus crossed into the northbound lane, overturned and slid on its left side, rolled over onto its roof, and came to rest upright in the West Walker River. As a result of the accident, 21 passengers died and 19 passengers and the driver were injured. The primary safety issue in this accident concerns commercial busdriver preemployment screening and postemployment supervision by motor carriers and oversight of the carrier by the State of California, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS). Another safety issue was the adequacy of the systems available for the exchange of data on the driver's accident and driving violation records. The Safety Board also examined the stability of the bus in the event of deflation of an air spring (part of the suspension system).

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the charter busdriver to comply with highway speed limits and advisory speed. signs and to reduce the bus speed sufficiently to negotiate safely the "S” curve on U.S. Route 395. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate screening and supervision of the busdriver by the motor carrier.

As a result of this investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the FHWA amend 49 CFR 391.15 to specify the number and type of violations that should disqualify a driver from driving a motor vehicle in interstate commerce and to specify the time interval in which that number of violations will result in disqualification. Finally, the Board has recommended that FHWA make the commercial license information (to be created as a result of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986) available to the law enforcement community, the courts, and the motor carriers. The Safety Board has reiterated Safety Recommendation H-80-16 to FHWA to revise the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations so that certain driving offenses will disqualify a driver without regard to the type of vehicle driven at the time of the offense and without regard to whether or not the driver was on duty. Finally, the Safety Board has recommended that the OMCS increase its number of agents to enable them to perform adequate initial and follow-up reviews of motor carriers consistent with the Selective Compliance and Enforcement Program.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Highway Administration:

Amend 49 CFR 391.11 and 391.15 to specify the number and type of violations of motor vehicle laws and the time interval in which they are committed that would result in qualification for or disqualification from driving a motor vehicle in interstate commerce. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-36)

Provide access for the law enforcement community, the courts, and the motor carriers to the clearinghouse of license information on commercial drivers that will be established under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-37)
Also, the Safety Board reiterated Safety Recommendation H-80-16 to the Federal Highway Administration:

Revise the commercial driver disqualification provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to provide that the specified disqualifying driving offenses shall be disqualifying without regard to the type of highway vehicle at the time of the offense or whether the driver was on or off duty.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Department of Transportation:

Increase the number of Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS) agents to enable OMCS to perform an adequate safety audit of all interstate motor carriers and to perform timely followup compliance reviews of those carriers that receive a less than satisfactory rating. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-38)