The National Transportation Safety Board will release its final report in a deadly trucking accident that happened last year on the Will Rogers Turnpike near Miami, Oklahoma.
In June of 2009, Donald Creed, 76, was driving a semi that crashed into several parked cars and caused a chain reaction that killed 10 people. Investigators told the National Transportation Board Tuesday that Creed was most likely suffering from acute fatigue. He had had only five hours of sleep before starting his workday, and when the accident occurred, he had been driving for more than 10 hours. Creed also suffers from sleep apnea, a condition that causes abnormal pauses in breathing and can prevent restful sleep.
Traffic had stopped on the turnpike due to another minor collision. Other drivers saw the traffic and slowed, but Creed did not. Investigators noted that there was no evidence that Creed tried to brake or take any evasive action from hitting the vehicles. He was not speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Creed pleaded guilty to 10 counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 10 years probation.
Fatigue has been a serious problem in the trucking profession for many years; the board estimates that 31 percent of all heavy truck accidents are due to driver fatigue. It is discussing the possibility of fatigue management and education for commercial drivers and their companies. In addition, the board is developing a model risk management program that it expects to be ready in two years’ time. There currently are no plans to require trucking companies to adopt the program, however.
NTSB leaders also are examining increased safety standards for heavy commercial vehicles and are looking at the benefits of “under-ride” protection for tractor-trailers. This could help absorb impact during a collision with a passenger vehicle.
The investigators also would like to see drivers screened for sleep apnea. While having the condition is not unsafe, the drivers need to make sure they are getting the proper treatment for this condition.
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman says she wants to increase survivability for people inside passenger vehicles, and that means increasing safety standards.