July 31, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is once again recommending that dedicated crash electronic data recorders be installed in all new heavy trucks.

The NTSB, which is not regulatory body and can only make recommendations to government rulemakers, made the conclusion after a investigation of a truck-motorcoach collision last year in California in which 10 people were killed.

Investigators know little about the cause of the crash and the NTSB said electronic data recorders would have helped them understand the events better.

While NTSB was unable to determine why the truck crossed the median, investigators ruled out both truck and motorcoach driver inexperience, licensing and training, as well as alcohol and drug use, mechanical factors, and weather as causes of the crash. The agency said it found no evidence that the truck driver suffered from distraction or fatigue.

“With access to event data recorders, we might have been able to determine why the truck crossed the median, which could have enabled us to make recommendations to prevent it from happening again,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said.

“Much of the reason that aviation is so safe today is that we have required such recorders for decades so that we can learn the lessons of accidents,” he added. “But they are still not required in commercial trucks or motorcoaches despite more than a decade of recommendations by the NTSB.”

Along with its renewed call for mandatory EDRs on trucks and motorcoaches, NTSB offered several other recommendations:

  • That motorcoach interiors be designed with improved flammability requirements;
  • That current motorcoach safety standards lack adequate requirements for emergency lighting and signage and should be beefed up to require independently powered lighting fixtures, use of photo luminescent material to mark emergency exits, and windows that remain open after being opened for emergency evacuations;
  • That motorcoach companies provide a pre-trip safety briefing or video concerned safety and evacuation procedures;
  • That a secondary door be installed on motorcoaches for use as an emergency exit to expedite evacuations and reduce the potential for injuries caused by jumping from window exits.

(Source:  Ontario Trucking Association.  July 30, 2015)