Highway Accident Brief - Rear-End Chain Reaction Collision, Interstate 94 East

Near Chelsea, Michigan
July 16, 2004

NTSB Number: HAB-07-01
Adopted: December 4, 2007
PDF

Accident Description

On Friday, July 16, 2004, about 12:00 p.m., a 1999 Sterling tractor towing a 1997 Great Dane semitrailer was part of a traffic queue moving slowly1 east on Interstate 94 (I-94), behind a 2004 Saturn station wagon approaching the Fletcher Road overpass. (See figure 1.) The queue had formed following an earlier accident in the eastbound lanes of a highway maintenance zone. At the same time, a 2000 Kenworth tractor towing a 2000 Hyundai semitrailer, owned by Equity Transportation Company, Inc. (Equity), was traveling behind the queue on I-94, approaching the Fletcher Road overpass at a witness-estimated speed of 60 mph. The Kenworth driver failed to slow in time for the traffic queue ahead. A 115-foot preimpact skid mark indicated that the Kenworth driver applied the brakes and swerved to the right almost immediately before his truck collided with the Sterling's semitrailer. The left front of his truck struck the right rear of the Sterling's semitrailer, compressing the cab of the Kenworth about 6 feet to the rear, trapping and fatally injuring its driver. (See figure 2.) The impact propelled the Sterling tractor-semitrailer into the Saturn in front of it, resulting in minor injuries to the Sterling driver and to a passenger in the Saturn.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the July 16, 2004, multiple-vehicle accident near Chelsea, Michigan, was the accident driver's failure to stop upon encountering traffic congestion in a temporary traffic control zone likely due to a reduced state of alertness associated with failure to obtain adequate rest. Contributing to the accident were Equity Transportation Company, Inc.'s, insufficient regard for, and oversight of, driver compliance with Federal commercial motor vehicle hours-of-service regulations, which endangered the safety of its drivers and the traveling public; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's failure to require motor carriers to use tamperproof driver's logs; and the Michigan Department of Transportation's failure to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis as part of a bridge rehabilitation project.

Recommendations

As a result of this accident investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board made the safety recommendations listed below.

To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Require all interstate commercial vehicle carriers to use electronic on-board recorders that collect and maintain data concerning driver hours of service in a valid, accurate, and secure manner under all circumstances, including accident conditions, to enable the carriers and their regulators to monitor and assess hours-of-service compliance. (H-07-41)

As an interim measure and until industrywide use of electronic on-board recorders is mandated, as recommended in Safety Recommendation H-07-41, prevent log tampering and submission of false paper logs by requiring motor carriers to create and maintain audit control systems that include, at a minimum, the retention of all original and corrected paper logs and the use of bound and sequentially numbered logs. (H-07-42)

To Equity Transportation Company, Inc.:

Implement a driver log review program that accounts for, tracks, and audits all modifications to paper logs and that also collects and retains all available electronic supporting documentation to verify driver compliance with Federal commercial driver hours-of-service regulations. (H-07-43)