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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-11-025
Synopsis: 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).
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION: Include, in your product acceptance letters for cable barrier safety devices, cautionary language reflecting 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, to warn state transportation agencies of the safety risks associated with the installation of cable barrier systems that differs from the configuration of the system as designed and tested; language 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: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Highway
Location: Munfordville, KY, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: HWY10MH011
Accident Reports: Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Median Crossover Collision With 15-Passenger Van
Report #: HAR-11-02
Accident Date: 3/26/2010
Issue Date: 10/4/2011
Date Closed: 9/12/2012
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FHWA (Closed - Acceptable Action)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 9/12/2012
Response: The NTSB notes that the FHWA amended its acceptance letters to include the recommended cautionary language, effective January 2012. This action satisfies Safety Recommendation H-11-25; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: FHWA
Date: 12/7/2011
Response: -From Victor M. Mendez, Administrator: The need to install safety hardware as it was designed and tested is part of all FHWA safety hardware acceptance letters. Below is an excerpt of a letter regarding cable barrier systems. "Although the barrier performed well under ideal test impact conditions with the two test vehicles, the likelihood of passenger car underrides of any cable system may increase as the post spacing increases, particularly when the barrier is installed on non-level or slightly irregular terrain and the cables are not restrained from lifting at each post. Consequently, some transportation agencies have limited post spacing to approximately 6m (20 feet) for cable barriers. The dynamic deflection of the barrier is likely to increase when it is installed along the convex sides of horizontal curves, and when distances between anchorages exceed the 100m (330-foot) test length." [This paragraph only applies to cable barrier systems.]” Based on the current inclusion of this language in acceptance letters for cable barrier systems, we request that this recommendation be re-classified as "Closed - Acceptable Action." Based on the actions and timeframes outlined in this letter, we ask that the remaining four recommendations (H-II-21 through -24) be classified as "Open Acceptable Action."