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On Friday, March 26, 2010, about 5:14 a.m. central daylight time, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a 1999 Freightliner truck-tractor in combination with a 1998 Strick Corporation 53-foot-long van semitrailer, owned by the motor carrier Hester, Inc., and being driven by a 45-year-old male, was traveling south on Interstate 65 (I-65) near milepost 61.5. The truck departed the left lane of southbound I-65 at a shallow angle and entered the 60-foot-wide depressed earthen median between the southbound and northbound roadways. The truck traveled across the median and struck and overrode the high-tension, four-cable, alternating-post median barrier adjacent to the left shoulder of northbound I-65. It then crossed the left shoulder and entered the travel lanes of northbound I-65. At that time, a 2000 Dodge 15-passenger van, driven by a 41-year-old male and occupied by 11 passengers, was traveling northbound in the left lane. As the truck crossed in front of the van, its tractor was struck by the van. The van rotated clockwise and became engaged with the truck’s trailer; the two vehicles continued across both travel lanes and the right shoulder of northbound I-65. As the truck and van traveled across the right shoulder, the van separated from the truck, struck the cut rock wall beyond the shoulder, and rebounded back into the travel lanes, coming to rest in the left lane of northbound I-65, facing south. The truck’s tractor struck the cut rock wall, and the vehicle rolled onto its right side. As the truck came to rest across both northbound lanes, a fire ensued that destroyed the tractor and the sides and roof of the semitrailer. As a result of the accident and subsequent truck fire, the truck driver, the van driver, and nine van passengers died. Two child passengers in the van, who were using child restraints, sustained minor injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of this accident was the truck driver’s failure to maintain control of the truck-tractor combination vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cellular telephone. Contributing to the severity of the accident were a median barrier that was not designed to safely contain or redirect the heavy vehicle and the lack of adequate guidance to the states in the form of high-performance median barrier warrants. One issue that the NTSB identified during its investigation was the need to provide objective warrants, rather than general guidelines, for the application of median barriers. This issue area has elements that concern the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
TO THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION: Provide to state transportation agencies information from current research, such as National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 22-25, Development of Guidance for the Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, about the safety risks associated with the installation of cable barrier systems that differs from the configuration of the system as designed and tested; information should include the risks associated with the dynamic deflection that may occur when installation distances between cable barrier anchorages differ from the 600-foot test length prescribed in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Munfordville, KY, United States
Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Median Crossover Collision With 15-Passenger Van
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FHWA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
The NTSB is pleased that, on November 27, 2012, the FHWA issued a memorandum to its Division Administrators, Federal Lands Division Engineers, and field safety specialists, based on the findings of NCHRP Report 711 (the product of NCHRP Project 22-25), providing guidance on the selection, use, and maintenance of cable barrier systems. This action satisfies Safety Recommendation H 11-24, which is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.
-From Victor M. Mendez, Administrator: In response to recommendation H-11-24 the Federal Highway Administration circulated a memorandum (attached) on November 27, to Division Administrators, Federal Lands Division Engineers, and field safety specialists to highlight the relevant findings from NHCRP Report 711: Guidance for the Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems. Specifically, the memorandum acknowledges that "Whereas most barriers were crash tested on flat terrain with a length of 300 to 600 feet, many real world installations go for thousands of feet between anchors, are located on sloping embankments, are used in horizontal or vertical curves, etc. The guidance in Report 711 should be consulted to account for these real world installation issues." Given the above described actions, we respectfully request that recommendation H-11-24 be classified as "Closed - Acceptable Action."
The NTSB notes that the FHWA plans to distribute the information from NCHRP Project 22-25 to its field division offices as soon as the report is published; both actions are expected to be completed later this year. Pending issuance of the guidance and notification to the NTSB of its distribution, Safety Recommendation H-11-24 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Victor M. Mendez, Administrator: We will ensure that the information from NHCRP Project 22-25 is shared with the States upon its publication in early 2012. The guidance provided in this report was vetted with the NCHRP panel as well as a number of experts from academia, State DOTs, and industry representatives. The general consensus was that the report provides a considerable amount of information that will help make better decisions about lateral placement, and address the effect of horizontal and vertical alignment of the roadway, the influence of allowable lengths of cable barrier runs relative to post spacing and design (i.e., brand), maintenance, and costs analyses. However this effort did not consider the implications of impacts by large trucks or provide any specific guidance for situations where such vehicles might represent a large portion of the traffic. Efforts have already begun to distribute this information to agencies considering the deployment of cable median barriers. We anticipate that further distribution of information from the NCHRP report will happen in 2012.
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