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Federal agency criticizes other vehicle safety regulators

Motorists and passengers in Indiana and across the country rely on federal agencies to prevent commercial vehicle accidents. A federal National Transportation Safety Board report issued this month is unusual because the NTSB faulted another agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for taking inadequate measures to keep unsafe carriers from the highways.

The NTSB investigated an accident that led to the deaths of four passengers on a coach bus on Aug. 2, 2016, near Livingston, California. The NTSB faulted driver fatigue by the motorcoach driver for the crash.

The coach bus, operated by a Fresno-based operator, was traveling from Los Angeles to Modesto. It drifted out of its travel lanes and crashed into a barrier system and signpost. The crash impact caused a signpost to enter the passenger compartment and ripped the right sidewall, cargo bays, and roof from the vehicle's body for two-thirds of its length.

In addition to the four fatalities, another 19 passengers suffered serious-to-minor injuries. The bus driver was also seriously injured.

NTSB investigators found that the driver had only five hours of sleep in the 40 hours before the accident and was in a condition of acute sleep loss. There were no tire skids or other signs that the driver took any other action to evade the barrier.

The operators' vehicles also flunked eight of 29 federal inspections over the last two years. It had an out-of-service rate of 38 percent, which is almost five times the national average.

In addition to the operator's inadequate safety practices, the NTSB reported that the FMCSA's insufficient oversight was a factor in the accident. It said that the FMCSA should change its rating system for motor carriers to ensure that unsafe carriers are put out of service.

Citing two other similar fatal accidents involving fatigued drivers during early morning hours, the NTSB repeated its recommendation that the FMCSA incorporate scientific fatigue mitigation strategies into its regulations governing passenger-carriers traveling overnight. It also made new recommendations for development of guidelines on barriers that will prevent motorcoaches and other heavier vehicles from colliding into roadside obstacles.

An attorney can help victims of these accidents and their families obtain compensation from negligent carriers and drivers. They can help assure that a lawsuit may be pursued.

Source: NTSB, "NTSB Says Federal Regulator Not Doing Enough to Keep Unsafe Operators Off Roads," Accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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