NTSB calls for fatigue mitigation steps

In response to a tractor-trailer rollover that triggered a collision of a motorcoach, the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday, Sept. 16, called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take actions to counteract the effects of fatigued commercial drivers and to reduce the occurrence of fatigue in the first place.

Specifically, NTSB recommended that:

  • FMCSA develop and implement a plan to deploy technologies in commercial vehicles to reduce the occurrence of fatigue-related accidents;
  • FMCSA develop and use a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of the fatigue management plans implemented by motor carriers, including their ability to improve sleep and alertness, mitigate performance errors, and prevent incidents and accidents;
  • NHTSA determine whether equipping commercial vehicles with collision warning systems with active braking and electronic stability control systems will reduce commercial vehicle accidents and to require their use on commercial vehicles if they are found effective.
  • NTSB also reiterated its previous recommendation that NHTSA complete a rulemaking on adaptive cruise control and collision warning system performance standards for new commercial vehicles. Those standards should address obstacle detection distance, timing of alerts, and human factors guidelines, such as the mode and type of warning, NTSB said.

    The crash that sparked NTSB’s recommendations occurred just before 2 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2005. A tractor-trailer traveling westbound on Interstate 94 near Osseo, Wis., departed the right-hand lane and traveled along the earthen roadside before re-entering the highway where it overturned, coming to rest on its right side and blocking both westbound lanes. About a minute later, a chartered 55-passenger motorcoach, carrying members of a high school band and traveling at highway speeds, crashed into the underside of the overturned truck. The crash killed the motorcoach driver and four passengers, while 35 passengers and the truck driver received minor-to-serious injuries.