Posts Tagged ‘train derailment’

NTSB Recommends “Hands-Free” Ban for Truckers

On May 28, 2013 a Mack truck hauling debris to a local recycling center pulled into the path of an oncoming moving train shortly before 2 p.m. The resulting collision caused 15 cars in the 45-car train to derail, including three carrying hazardous waste.  The final conclusions of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board shows that the driver of the truck had failed to stop at the crossing despite repeated horn blasts from the locomotive. The NTSB cited several causative or contributing factors including: The driver had failed to disclose to federal regulators that he suffered from “severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea” which likely affected his alertness. The driver’s employer had a poor safety record.  And the sight distance at the crossing was diminished, in part, by vegetative growth that needed to be trimmed back. There was another important factor; at the time of the crash the driver had been engaged in a conversation on his cell phone. Although he was using it in a “hands-free” mode, investigators concluded that the phone had been a distraction. Based on that finding, as well as other crash investigations, the NTSB has recommended that truck drivers not be allowed to use hands-free portable electronic devices while operating a vehicle except in an emergency. In further support of NTSB’s recommendation, several recent studies have concluded that hands-free cellular operation does not reduce the frequency of accidents.  Distracted driving continues to be a problem. While commercial vehicle operators are hardly alone in this, accidents involving tractor-trailers are far more likely to be deadly than those involving other types of vehicles — that’s just the physics of 80,000-pounds of rolling metal versus a two-ton car.

NTSB Investigates Fatal Metro-North Derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the Metro-North derailment in the Bronx is only in its first days, but it has already turned up some startling facts. The train derailed on the morning of Dec. 1, right outside the Spuyten Duyvil station, with four fatalities and 70 injuries as the tragic result. As is customary in NTSB investigations, as well as all kinds of accident reconstructions, two event recorders from the derailed train were examined. The train, plane, or truck’s speed is just one of the many specifics documented by the vehicle’s event recorder. According to NTSB board member Earl Weener, the train headed into the curve just ahead of the station at 82 mph, in a zone where the speed limit drops from 70 mph to 30 mph. In addition, the NTSB also found some kind of problem with the train’s brake pressure. A mere five seconds prior to the engine finally stopping, brake pressure dropped from 120 psi to 0. NTSB investigators still have more work to do to determine whether or not the brakes were functioning correctly and why the pressure went to 0. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) remarked that “given this was the fifth major accident or malfunction on the Metro-North Railroad in just over six months, major questions have arisen about safety on the commuter railroad system.” As of Dec. 3, the NTSB states that it remains unclear whether human error or faulty equipment was responsible for this deadly derailment. Their investigation continues. Needless to say, this fatal accident has brought service on the line to a halt, inconveniencing thousands of commuters. N.Y. Governor Cuomo said in a statement on Monday that he expects to see Metro-North service restored toward the end of the week, though officials for the railroad itself said there was no definitive timetable for full service.