National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. - In a report adopted today, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the driver of a Freightliner tractor-trailer failed to slow for traffic as he approached the queue waiting at the Hampshire-Marengo toll plaza on Interstate 90 in Illinois. The tractor-trailer, moving at about fifty miles per hour, struck the rear of a twenty-five passenger specialty bus operated by Leisure Pursuit Charters, which traveled forward striking a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck and pushed it into the rear of a Ford tractor-trailer. Eight passengers on the specialty bus were killed in the accident. The Board also cited, as a contributing cause, the intermittent traffic backup created by vehicles stopping for the toll plaza.
"It's terrible to see an accident like this when we have the technology to prevent it," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "It's time to put those technologies to work - saving lives."
The Board determined that the truck driver did not notice traffic slowing ahead of him and had the truck been equipped with a collision warning system, the technology might have prevented the accident. As a result the Board reiterated previous recommendations issued in 2001 calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create standards for collision warning systems and require their installation on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles.
Cited as a contributing factor in the collision, the Board noted that traditional toll plazas, such as the Hampshire Marengo plaza interrupt the flow of high-speed traffic and tend to increase the incidence of rear-end collisions. The Board noted that the conversion to electronic toll plazas should reduce such hazards and recommended that the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association cooperate to develop guidelines on toll plaza design providing information on current tolling practices, electronic toll collection strategies, and other equipment that will eliminate queuing and improve toll road safety.
Although toll plaza design increases the likelihood of rear-end collisions, the severity of this collision was compounded by the large weight difference between the tractor-trailer and the specialty bus, and the design difference between the two vehicles. Although NHTSA has acknowledged the significance of vehiclein compatibility in traffic accidents, the agency has not allocated the resources to examine the issue as it affects heavy trucks, a major cause of death for occupants in passenger cars, light trucks, and vans. As a result the Board recommended that the Department of Transportation include heavy vehicles in research, testing and eventual rulemaking on highway vehicle incompatibility. The Board further recommended that the DOT propose to the 21st Century Truck Partnership that it include heavy vehicles in any research, testing, or rulemaking on vehicle incompatibility.
A routine examination of federal motor carrier oversight during the investigation revealed that the Federal Motor Carrier Administration had revoked the operating authority of Leisure Pursuit Charters in January 2002. However because FMCSA's revocation process does not provide for any follow up to the revocation notice, Leisure Pursuit Charters was able to continue operating as a for-hire passenger carrier. The Board recommended that FMCSA establish a program to verify that motor carriers have ceased operation after the effective date of revocation of operating authority.
A synopsis of the Board's report including a complete listing of conclusions and recommendations is available on the Highway Publications page of the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov. The Board's full report will be available on the website in a few weeks.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.