NTSB again recommends collision warning systems for trucks

| 4/25/2006

The National Transportation Safety Board has renewed its call for collision warning systems on all commercial vehicles.

And on April 18, the NTSB called for more open-road tolling systems, which allow trucks and cars to simply pass electronic sensors instead of having to slow down or stop at a toll plaza.

Both recommendations grew out of a study of a toll plaza wreck on Interstate 90 in Illinois in 2003. In that wreck, a tractor-trailer rear-ended a small tour bus, killing eight passengers.

The NTSB reported the wreck was caused by driver inattentiveness – which led to the Freightliner hitting the slow-moving bus at 50 mph.

NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said the wreck might not have occurred if the truck driver had had a collision warning device in his cab.

“That’s a device that would be on the vehicle itself, (and) using radar capabilities, would sense obstacles to the front and possibly to the side of a vehicle,” Peduzzi said. “(It) alerts the driver when the distance between your vehicle and an obstacle ahead begins to collapse to a degree where braking capability may be compromised.”

During the course of the NTSB investigation into the 2003 wreck, toll plaza design, and the lack of a national standard for the design was called into question.

“The old style toll plaza design does present a safety hazard because it does slow down traffic on otherwise high-speed highways. We looked at some possibilities for keeping that traffic moving – such as open tolling, electronic tolling lanes,” Peduzzi said.

The Hampshire-Marengo toll plaza where the fatal wreck occurred three years ago is being dismantled and converted to an open-road toll system.

The truck driver – Vincente Zepeda of Chicago – is scheduled for trial this summer on charges that he was driving too fast and was driving with faulty brakes that he hadn’t checked. The NTSB report did say, however, that the faulty brakes did not contribute to the accident.

– By Reed Black, staff writer