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NTSB Critical of Federal Regulators in Oklahoma Truck Crash

In June 2009, a 76-year-old tractor-trailer driver slammed his vehicle into a line of vehicles stopped for a minor traffic accident near Miami, Okla. Ten automobile occupants were killed, while five more received minor to serious injuries. The tractor-trailer driver also was seriously injured.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded their investigation on September 28. They determined that the cause of the accident was driver fatigue on the part of the tractor-trailer operator. Further findings were that the fatigue was caused in part by acute sleep loss and sleep disruption due to his driving schedule.

Collision Warning Systems

The NTSB was openly critical of the federal agencies charged with regulating the trucking industry. It called upon the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to require that tractor-trailers be equipped with collision warning systems. A collision warning system provides drivers with an audible and visible warning when obstructions are present in their path that could result in a collision. The NTSB first suggested in 2001 that systems that could provide a warning when a tractor-trailer was within 350 feet of colliding with another vehicle should be required by law. The systems cost $1,000 to $2,000 per vehicle, and could prevent an estimated 4,700 collisions and 96 traffic deaths annually. Yet, they are still not required.

In this case, there was no evidence that the tractor-trailer driver tried to brake or in any way avoid the collision. Investigators concluded that a collision warning system could have prevented the accident.

Driver Fatigue

Investigators also found that the tractor-trailer driver was on the road for more than 10 hours prior to the collision, in violation of existing regulations. The NTSB called upon the FMCSA to require all motor carriers to improve their fatigue education materials and to implement fatigue management programs for their drivers. The NTSA also recommended that all heavy commercial vehicles be equipped with video event recorders to assist investigators in determining the cause of crashes of tractor-trailers with other vehicles.

Fatigued tractor-trailer drivers continue to be a danger on the nation's road systems. If you are involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer, make sure you consult with an attorney who has experience with trucking and transportation law.


The Boston Globe