NTSB: New Carriers Should Demonstrate Safety Fitness

In a report adopted yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) fails to ensure the operational safety and management oversight of new entrant motor carriers.

The report recommended that the FMCSA require new carriers to demonstrate their safety fitness prior to beginning operations and revise their safety fitness rating system to better identify potential safety issues for new carriers.

The recommendations are included in the board's report on a June 2002 collision that occurred near Loraine, Texas, between a Greyhound bus and a truck semitrailer operated by DelCar Trucking. The Greyhound bus struck the rear of the truck semitrailer in the pre-dawn hours when the truck, operated by a driver in training, left a picnic area and was entering Interstate 20 at a slow speed. Three people were killed and 29 others were injured in the accident.

The board's investigation revealed that the truck was not easily visible in the dark because it did not have the required retro-reflective taping and the lights on the semitrailer were not working. In addition, the truck driver's toxicology tests were positive for cocaine and the co-driver, who was required to be in the passenger seat while the driver in training was operating the vehicle, was in the sleeper berth.

The board determined the probable cause of the accident was the unnecessarily slow acceleration of the unlighted semitralier onto a high speed interstate by an inexperienced driver who was impaired by cocaine. The report also noted DelCar Trucking's failure to exercise adequate operational oversight and the FMCSA's failure to ensure the safety of and provide adequate management for new entrant motor carriers.

The investigation also found that the FMCSA form Safety Certification for Application for U.S. DOT Number does not require applicants to provide detailed information on operations and that FMCSA has no mechanism for verifying the validity of an applicant's information. Therefore, there is no adequate measure of a motor carrier's safety fitness at the time of application.

In compliance with FMCSA regulations, the owner of DelCar Trucking completed all required forms for new entrant motor carriers and had certified he was familiar and would comply with FMCSA regulations, and that he had never been convicted of possession or distribution of a controlled substance.

However through its investigation, the board determined that the owner had little knowledge of the safety requirements and did not comply with many of them. It was also discovered that the owner had been convicted of drug possession in 1999.

The board also found current FMCSA procedures to conduct safety audits on new entrant motor carriers up to 18 months after carriers begin operation potentially allows unsafe carriers to operate without oversight for over a year. At the time of the accident, DelCar Trucking had been a registered motor carrier for 22 months but had not had an FMCSA safety audit.

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