The investigation into the fiery truck and bus crash that killed 10 people in California last week is turning from the accident wreckage to the work record and history of the FedEx Freight truck driver involved in the crash, as the National Transportation Safety Board searches for a cause for the accident.
“We are going to go over that driver’s last 72 hours, at least, and we’ll be looking at when he worked, when rest took place, his cell phone use,” Mark S. Rosekind, an NTSB board member, said in an April 13 press briefing in Orland, Calif. “Fatigue, distraction and other human performance issues are at the top of our list.”
The accident is likely to bring more attention to truck safety and the use of longer combination vehicles such as double trailers as debate over the next surface transportation bill continues on Capitol Hill. Shipping and trucking interests would like expanded use of longer or heavier vehicles to compensate for lost productivity from tighter truck driver work rules.
One option trucking interests are promoting is use of 33-foot pup trailers in place of 28-foot trailers in “doubles units.”
A coalition opposed to heavier trucks recently criticized a yet-to-be-released Department of Transportation study and asked the Obama administration to put the study on hold.
Family and friends identified the driver, who was killed in the crash, as 32-year-old Tim Evans of Elk Grove, Calif., according to the Sacramento Bee.
Although Rosekind did not name Evans, he said the driver was based in Sacramento, Calif., and had driven a load to Weed, Calif., near Oregon, the morning of April 10. The distance between Sacramento and Weed is approximately 230 miles on Interstate 5.
The driver then picked up two semi-trailers and was returning to Sacramento when the accident occurred near Orland, about 130 miles south of Weed. The FedEx Freight truck reportedly crossed the median on I-5 and sideswiped a passenger car before striking a chartered tour bus head-on at about 5:40 p.m.
Rosekind said the first trailer in the doubles unit was partially loaded, and the second trailer was empty. The NTSB was still trying to determine whether the cargo included any hazardous materials, he said. Investigators found no evidence the doubles unit was on fire before hitting the bus, as reported by some witnesses, but Rosekind said “we’re not ruling anything out.”
A preliminary report on the accident will be released within 30 days, he said. It could be months before a final report is released.
In a statement, FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith said the company would provide “every resource necessary to assist investigators in their efforts to understand what happened.” The NTSB has asked for a FedEx Freight tractor and two semi-trailers, Rosekind said, to examine the vehicle and equipment.
The electronic control module on the FedEx Freight tractor was destroyed in the crash, Rosekind said, but the federal agency could still examine other surviving parts of the vehicle to possibly get a speed range. The bus ECM survived the crash.