National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said it is "long past time" trucking firms took steps to reduce the risk of driver fatigue, after hearing evidence today that acute fatigue caused a 10-fatality truck accident last year.
Truck driver Donald L. Creed had been driving more than 10 hours after only five hours of sleep when his rig crashed into several vehicles last June, killing 10 people, investigators said at a Sept. 28 NTSB hearing on the accident.
The hearing came as the Obama administration is considering new hours of service rules that many believe will reduce the number of hours a trucker can operate a vehicle per day. Currently, drivers may stay behind the wheel 11 hours a day.
The crash took place in the early afternoon of June 26, 2009, in the eastbound lane of I-44, near Miami, Okla. Another accident had slowed traffic ahead of Creed, whose truck was traveling at about 70 mph, according to Oklahoma State Police.
Creed's truck struck four cars, knocking some into other vehicles. Two of the cars were crushed when the tractor-trailer rode over them.
"As I crested the hill I saw brake lights on the cars all the way to the underpass and started to slow down when I seen the truck in front of my truck hit a car and did not see him hit his brakes," another truck driver at the scene said in a statement.
In addition to the fatalities, five motorists were injured, as was Creed, who was 76.
The trucker, who worked for Associated Wholesale Grocers, had a clean driving record. He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced last month to 30 days in jail and 10 years' probation, the Associate Press reported.
Investigators at the hearing urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require trucking operators to have fatigue risk management programs, the AP said. They also urged carriers to screen truck drivers for sleep apnea.
Creed suffered from sleep apnea, which can prevent deep sleep.
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