NTSB renews call for crash avoidance systems

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that the principal cause of an accident that killed eight people in Illinois was the tractor-trailer driver’s failure to slow as the truck approached vehicles waiting at a toll plaza. A contributing cause, NTSB said, was the intermittent traffic backup created by vehicles stopping for the toll plaza.

The investigation — the results of which were released Tuesday, April 18 — determined that the truck driver did not notice traffic slowing ahead of him and that a collision warning system might have prevented the accident. NTSB, therefore, reiterated its previous recommendations issued in 2001 calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create standards for collision warning systems and to require their installation on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles.

“It’s terrible to see an accident like this when we have the technology to prevent it,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. “It’s time to put those technologies to work — saving lives.”

However, some trucking associations have opposed mandating the gear, which can cost in excess of $3,000. “They have a tendency to promote overconfidence in the driver,” Todd Spencer, vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told the Chicago Daily Herald.

NTSB also recommended guidelines on toll plaza design that emphasize electronic toll collection to reduce queuing. And the board called on the Department of Transportation and NHTSA to conduct more research and, eventually, a rulemaking on how to deal with the large weight differences between heavy trucks and other highway vehicles.