The NTSB has recommended the FMCSA place stricter regulations on hand-held devices.
The recommendation was given to the FMCSA in an NTSB investigation report of a May 2013 crash report involving a CSX train and a truck.
In the report, the NTSB fingered distracted driving on the truck driver’s part as a factor in the crash. At the time of the collision with the train, the truck driver was reportedly using a Bluetooth device.
According to the NTSB’s crash report, on May 28, 2013, a 2003 Mack truck, owned by Alban Waste, LLC, was struck by a CSX train in Rosedale, Maryland. The collision caused the 2-locomotive, 45 car to derail.
“The truck was carrying a load of debris to a recycling center located 3.5 miles from the carrier terminal. About the same time, a CSX Transportation Company (CSXT) freight train—which consisted of two locomotives, 31 empty cars, and 14 loaded cars—was traveling southwest at a speed of 49 mph. As the train approached the crossing, the train horn sounded three times. The truck did not stop and was hit by the train. Three of the 15 derailed cars contained hazardous materials. The other derailed cars contained non-US Department of Transportation-regulated commodities, or were empty. One car loaded with sodium chlorate crystal and four cars loaded with terephthalic acid released their products,” the NTSB report states.
During an investigation of the crash, the NTSB identified several factors of the crash: ” (1) the truck driver’s distraction due to a hands-free cell phone conversation; (2) the limited sight distance due to vegetation and roadway curvature; and (3) the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) inadequate oversight of Alban Waste, LLC, which allowed the new entrant motor carrier to continue operations despite a serious and consistent pattern of safety deficiencies. Contributing to the severity of the damage was the postcrash fire and the resulting explosion of a rail car carrying sodium chlorate, an oxidizer.”
The NTSB says the probable cause of the crash was the driver’s failure to check that the tracks were clear before crossing.
The NTSB report states that the crash occurred at approximately 1:59, the collision occurred, and phone records show the truck driver answered a phone call using a bluetooth wireless headset at 1:59.- One second later, the train engineer sounded his horn. The truck driver’s windows were rolled up, the air conditioner was on, and the radio was off.
The driver told investigators that he didn’t typically stop at the crossing, but that he relied on the sound of the train horn to alert him that a train was coming.
NTSB Recommendations to the FMCSA
The NTSB recommends the FMCSA more closely monitor new entrants. The New Entrant Safety Assurance Program was instituted in 2003. Under the program, new entrants are subject to an 18-month safety monitoring period.
During the 18-month safety monitoring period, carrier’s roadside inspections are to be monitored and carriers are supposed to undergo a safety audit to make sure the company is meeting driver qualification, driver duty status, vehicle maintenance, accident registry, and controlled substances and alcohol testing.
Alban Waste became a new entrant on April 1, 2011, In November 2011, Alban Waste failed its new entrant safety audit for failure to implement a random drug/alcohol testing program.
The FMCSA placed Alban Waste OOS on February 3, 2012.
“The FMCSA placed Alban Waste out of service and revoked its registration effective February 3, 2012. Under 49 CFR 385.329, a new entrant whose DOT registration has been revoked, and whose operations have been placed out of service, may reapply for registration no sooner than 30 days after the date of revocation. If the registration was revoked because the carrier failed the safety audit, the new entrant must submit evidence that it has corrected the deficiencies, reapply, and restart the 18-month new entrant monitoring cycle if the application is approved. Alban Waste reapplied to the new entrant program and submitted a second CAP. The FMCSA accepted the CAP; granted Alban Waste operating authority on March 23, 2012; and notified the carrier that the new entrant safety monitoring period would restart on March 26, 2012,” the NTSB report states.
“Between May 2012 and May 2013, Alban Waste exceeded its BASIC thresholds eight times. These BASICs included unsafe driving and vehicle maintenance (improper loading). At the time of the crash, Alban Waste had an unsafe driving BASIC of 90.2 percent and a vehicle maintenance BASIC of 66.4 percent.”
The NTSB recommends the FMCSA more closely monitor driver with sleep apnea.
In 2007, the Alban Waste driver was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea and was prescribed a CPAP machine. The driver reportedly did not fill the prescription or begin treatment for his sleep apnea.
The driver reportedly told NTSB investigators that he lost weight following the diagnosis, however, records show that between 2007 and 20013, the driver’s BMI don’t drop below 35.68.
The NTSB report states the “truck driver had severe, untreated OSA that likely affected his alertness, but he did not disclose this diagnosis on the DOT fitness exam forms and continued to operate as a CMV driver; moreover, though his personal physician was aware of his severe OSA, on two occasions he medically certified the driver. During the postcrash CR, the FMCSA cited the driver for making a false entry on his medical examiner’s certificate; however, no action was taken to disqualify his medical certification or to require that he provide evidence of treatment for OSA.”
In 2009, the NTSB recommended the FMCSA:
Implement a program to identify commercial drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea and require that those drivers provide evidence through the medical certification process of having been appropriately evaluated and, if treatment is needed, effectively treated for that disorder before being granted unrestricted medical certification. (H-09-15)
Develop and disseminate guidance for commercial drivers, employers, and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), emphasizing that drivers who have OSA that is effectively treated are routinely approved for continued medical certification. (H-09-16)
The NTSB recommends, “The FMCSA should also create a policy for reporting medically related violations to states or others with the authority to disqualify or restrict medical certification. Therefore, the NTSB recommends that the FMCSA develop a system whereby the authority responsible for issuing commercial driver medical certification will be notified when FMCSA investigators discover violations that could result in a driver’s medical disqualification.”
The NTSB recommends the FMCSA modify 49 CFR 392.82 and prohibit the use of hands-free cell phone use by a CDL holder while the driver is operating a commercial vehicle, except in emergencies.