Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
Closing Statement

Highway Accident Report Rollover of a Truck-Tractor and Cargo Tank Semitrailer
Indianapolis, Indiana, October 22, 2009

Washington, DC July 26, 2011


I want to thank my fellow Board members for their participation today.

In closing, I'd like to recognize the outstanding effort of the Safety Board staff who completed the accident investigation and developed this excellent report; in particular, the staff from the Office of Highway Safety; Office of Rail, Pipeline and Hazardous Material, Office of Research and Engineering, and the Office of Safety Recommendations. Robert Accetta, the Investigator-in-Charge, and his team did an excellent job, and all deserve recognition.

I also want to recognize state of Indiana's Department of Transportation for its work after the accident to improve the I-465 connection ramp to modify the cross-slope break and enhance the protection of the bridge pier columns supporting the I-465 overpasses.

Cargo tank trucks represent only about 6 percent of large trucks, yet account for nearly one-third of all fatal commercial truck rollover accidents. They are more prone to rollover while negotiating a curve than all heavy trucks. They can be dangerous and they can be deadly in an accident.

This comprehensive investigation looked at the driver, the vehicle, and the environment. We know that drivers may occasionally make abrupt steering movements, but we want to ensure that the vehicle and the roadway are designed to protect against rollovers rather than contribute to them. Our team conducted a detailed review of the tanker's inherent instability due to a high center of gravity and the sloshing and surging of a partial liquid load. As for the environment, the team reviewed the roadway design and in this report we learned just how important it is to design roadways for commercial vehicles as well as for passenger cars.

Our safety recommendations address all three areas. As you heard, there is especially great promise from technology to offset human errors and limitations. Last month, I had the opportunity to experience firsthand the benefits of electronic stability control systems in a heavy truck. We are encouraged by NHTSA's ongoing rulemaking effort to address heavy-truck rollovers, but we know that there is still a lot of work to be done.

As C.S. Lewis said, experience is the "most brutal of teachers." We have seen too many brutal losses from tanker truck rollovers. Now is the time to improve tanker truck safety.

We stand adjourned.