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Closing Statement, Board Meeting: Multi-vehicle crash near Cranbury, New Jersey
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Boardroom
8/11/2015

​In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this report, and thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process.

This investigation ranged across a variety of road safety issues, and resulted in many new or reiterated recommendations.

Some recommendations addressed crash survivability issues. We urged safety briefings and better emergency egress in commercial passenger vehicles, so that passengers use restraints systems and have access to and knowledge about emergency exits. We asked for better assurance of the safety of vehicles that have been modified after their manufacture.

Other recommendations touched on emergency response issues. Whether professional or volunteer, emergency responders deserve our respect and our gratitude. They also deserve the training and standards to do their lifesaving work as effectively as possible.

With still other recommendations, we aspired to the best safety outcome of all, namely, preventing the crash altogether. For crashes like the one in Cranbury that we discussed today, that means preventing truck driver fatigue.

Fatigue cannot be addressed solely by regulations. Strong hours-of-service rules are important. But they cannot govern what employees do on their own time.

That’s where fatigue management programs can help, by educating drivers, dispatchers, managers, and their families that fitness for duty must be an unwavering commitment.

To its credit, Walmart has taken steps to bolster its driver fatigue education and policies since this crash and has stated its intention to develop a fatigue management program. Today we urged Walmart to complete the implementation of this program, and we reiterated our recommendation that the FMCSA require such programs nationwide.

Other recommendations, if acted on, will continue to bring technology to bear on preventing such crashes. Speed limiting and collision avoidance technologies can act as backstops to drivers, who are vulnerable to human error. Onboard monitoring systems can detect driver behaviors that might lead to a crash.

But if there is a crash, there is one simple, relatively low-tech measure that we all can all take to improve our own chances of surviving it: We can buckle up and use our adjustable headrests, not just in our own cars, but in commercial passenger vehicles as well.

The NTSB has now seen, in two successive highway crashes, that passengers disregard available restraint systems in commercial vehicles. If today’s recommendations are acted on, passengers will get needed reminders, and other practical safety information, on every trip.

But individuals can begin to heed the message today. When we ride in any vehicle equipped with restraint systems, whether as driver or passenger, we should buckle up, just as we would in our own cars.

Seat belts save lives - no matter what type of vehicle we are in, and no matter who is driving.

We stand adjourned.