The National Transportation Safety Board renewed its call for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to change its safety rating system to ensure carriers with serious safety issues be placed out of service.
While the board’s recommendations primarily apply to passenger-carrying carriers, some of them would likely affect freight carriers as well.
The recommendation came from the NTSB’s investigation of a sleep-deprived driver operating a motorcoach during early morning hours caused a crash that killed four of the 24 passengers, according to a report released Nov. 13.
A motorcoach operated by Fresno-based Autobuses Coordinados USA Inc., traveling from Los Angeles to Modesto on State Route 99, drifted out of its travel lanes and struck a barrier and a highway signpost in 2016, near Livingston, California.
Investigators determined the driver had only about five hours of opportunity for sleep in the 40 hours preceding the crash, leaving him in a state of “acute sleep loss” at the time of the crash. There were no tire marks or other indication the driver took any action to avoid the crash.
According to FMCSA records, the company’s vehicles failed eight of 29 federal inspections in just under two years, putting its out-of-service rate at 38%, almost five times greater than the national average of 8%.
NTSB says that FMCSA’s lack of oversight contributed to the crash and reiterated two earlier recommendations it has made to the agency.
First, change your safety fitness rating methodology so that negative vehicle or driver performance-based data alone are sufficient to result in an overall unsatisfactory rating for the carrier.
Include safety measurement system rating scores in the methodology used to determine a carrier’s fitness to operate in the safety fitness rating rule-making for the Compliance, Safety, Accountability initiative.
The FMCSA recently dropped its safety fitness rating rule-making proposal. The now-withdrawn proposal on methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate trucks based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
The NTSB also issued two new recommendations aimed at developing risk-based guidelines to determine where high-performance barrier systems should be installed to shield heavy vehicles, such as motorcoaches, from roadside obstacles and hazards.
NTSB does not have any regulatory-making authority. It investigates crashes and makes recommendations to agencies to try to prevent similar crashes in the future.