Highway Accident Report

Adopted: November 14, 1995
PROPANE TRUCK COLLISION WITH
BRIDGE COLUMN AND FIRE
WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK
JULY 27, 1994

NTSB Number: HAR-95/02
NTIS Number: PB95-916202
PDF Document (3.50MB)


 

SYNOPSIS
About 12:30 a.m. on July 27, 1994, a tractor cargo-tank semitrailer loaded with 9,200 gallons of propane (a liquefied petroleum gas) and operated by Suburban Paraco Corporation was traveling east on Interstate 287 in White Plains, New York. The truck drifted across the left lane onto the left shoulder and struck the guardrail; the tank hit a column of the Grant Avenue overpass. The tractor and the semitrailer separated, and the front head of the tank fractured, releasing the propane, which vaporized into gas. The resulting vapor cloud expanded until it found a source of ignition. When it ignited, according to an eyewitness, a fireball rose 200 or 300 feet in the air. The tank was propelled northward about 300 feet and landed on a frame house, engulfing it in flames.
The driver was killed, 23 people were injured, and an area with a radius of approximately 400 feet was engulfed by fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of this accident were the reduction in the alertness of the driver (consistent with falling asleep) caused by his failure to properly schedule and obtain rest, and the failure of Paraco Gas Corporation, Inc., to exercise adequate oversight of its driver's hours of service. Contributing to the accident was the design of the highway geometries and appurtenances, which did not accommodate an errant heavy vehicle. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the vulnerability of the bridge to collision from high-speed heavy vehicles.

In this accident investigation, the Safety Board identified the following safety issues:

I . Truckdriver fatigue
2. Carrier's oversight of the driver's work/rest cycles
3. Countermeasures for single-vehicle roadway departures (SVRDS)
4. Compatibility of highway design and the operating characteristics of heavy vehicles and bridge vulnerability
5. Cargo tank integrity.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board issued five safety recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration, one to the Research and Special Programs Administration, one to the New York State Department of Transportation, one to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, one to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, one to the American Trucking Association, and two to Paraco Gas Corporation, Inc. The Safety Board also reiterated three recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration.

RECOMMENDATIONS

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

--to the Federal Highway Administration:

Require that highway geometric design and traffic operations of the National
Highway System be based on heavy-truck operating characteristics. (Class II,Priority Action) (H-95-32)

Conduct research with cargo tanks (80,000 pounds) to evaluate the safety performance of roadside barriers and highway geometries, such as embankanent sideslopes and ditches, and change the standards accordingly. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-33)

Require any Federal-aid project involving bridges to use the 1994 Load and Resistance Factor Design guidelines for the protection of structures and the design of piers. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-34)

Cooperate with the Research and Special Programs Administration in studying methods and developing standards to improve the crashworthiness of front heads on cargo tanks used to transport liquefied flammable gases and potentially lethal nonflammable compressed gases. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-35)

Cooperate with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the American Trucking Association to review and augment the commercial drivers license manual and test materials to include information on the role of fatigue in commercial vehicle accidents and methods to identify and address fatigue. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-36)

--to the Research and Special Programs Administration:

In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, study methods and develop standards to improve the crashworthiness of front heads on cargo tanks used to transport liquefied flammable gases and potentially lethal nonflammable compressed gases. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-37)

--to the New York State Department of Transportation:'

When Interstate 287 is redesigned, design the geometrics and safety appurtenances for the vehicle characteristics of heavy trucks. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-38)

--to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials:

Add a cargo tank to the design vehicles in the AASHTO A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-39)

--to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators:

In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the American Trucking Association review and augment the commercial drivers license manual and test materials to include information on the role of fatigue in commercial vehicle accidents and methods to identify and address fatigue. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-40)

--to the American Trucking Association:

Cooperate with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the Federal Highway Administration to review and augment the commercial drivers license manual and test materials to include information on the role of fatigue in commercial vehicle accidents and methods to identify and address fatigue. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-41)

--to Paraco Gas Corporation, Inc.:

Develop and implement driver scheduling, oversight, and monitoring practices that ensure that drivers obtain adequate rest in accordance with Federal hour-of-service requirements. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-95-42)

(a) Institute a written policy to ensure that all company drivers comply with the Federal Regulations (49 CFR 16) requiring the use of seatbeits whenever the vehicle is in motion; (b) ensure that all drivers are made aware of this requirement. and (c) monitor seatbelt use periodically. (Class II, Priority Action) (11-95-43)

Also, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration: H-94-5

Request States to identify and assess bridges that are vulnerable to collapse from a high-speed heavy-vehicle collision with their bridge columns and develop and implement countermeasures to protect the structures. H-95-3

Examine truckdriver pay compensation to determine if there is any effect on hours-of-service violations, accidents, or fatigue. H-95-5

Develop and disseminate, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Transportation Human Factors Coordinating Committee, a training and education module to inform truckdrivers of the hazards of driving while fatigued. It should include information about the need for an adequate amount of quality sleep, strategies for avoiding sleep loss, such as strategic napping, consideration of the behavioral and physiological consequences of sleepiness, and an awareness that sleep can occur suddenly and without warning to all drivers regardless of their age or experience.