James Jaillet|October 23, 2014
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should restrict the hands-free use of portable electronics and lapsed in its oversight of a problematic carrier, according to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board, who says both factors contributed to a May 2013 truck/train crash that caused a train derailment that led to an explosion.
NTSB released its report Oct. 22, saying the driver of the tractor-trailer that hit the train was distracted by a hands-free phone conversation.“Current laws may mislead people to believe that hands free is as safe as not using a phone at all,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Our investigations have found over and over that distraction in any form can be dangerous behind the wheel.”
FMCSA oversight, however, also contributed to the accident, NTSB says. Its report concludes that the carrier had shown a “consistent and serious pattern of noncompliance” with federal safety regulations and that FMCSA was aware of the problems but failed to “take adequate steps to ensure” compliance.
“We continue to be concerned with FMCSA’s new entrant program,” Hart said. “Problem operators keep falling through the cracks.”
NTSB last year called for an audit of FMCSA and its regulatory oversight, saying the agency consistently allowed problematic carriers to slip through the cracks, leading to several deadly crashes.