Fa­tigue, poor reg­u­la­tion led to deadly Liv­ingston crash

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Local/state - By Brian Mel­ley

LOS AN­GE­LES — A se­verely sleep-de­prived driver and a bus com­pany with a poor safety record were causes of an Au­gust 2016 crash in Cal­i­for­nia’s Cen­tral Val­ley that killed four pas­sen­gers and in­jured 20 oth­ers, in­clud­ing the driver, fed­eral safety in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Mon­day.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said the driver had only slept about five hours over the 40 hours pre­ced­ing the Aug. 2, 2016 crash. The bus trav­el­ing from Los An­ge­les to Modesto drifted off the right side of High­way 99 and struck a high­way sign­post that nearly sliced the bus from nose to tail. There were no signs the driver tried to stop or steer back on the high­way.

The NTSB said a con­tribut­ing cause was in­ad­e­quate over­sight by the fed­eral agency reg­u­lat­ing bus safety that al­lowed Fres­nobased Au­to­buses Co­or­di­na­dos USA Inc. to con­tinue op­er­at­ing de­spite a poor safety record. It called on the Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion to change its rat­ing sys­tem to make sure com­pa­nies ei­ther fix se­ri­ous safety is­sues or be taken off the road.

“Here’s yet an­other fa­tal crash in­volv­ing both a mo­tor coach car­rier with a starkly ev­i­dent his­tory of safety prob­lems and a se­verely fa­tigued driver,” said NTSB Chair­man Robert L. Sumwalt. “It’s time that the Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion move more ag­gres­sively to keep these un­safe car­ri­ers off Amer­i­can road­ways.”

The com­pany had failed eight of 29 fed­eral in­spec­tions in less than two years and its out-of-ser­vice rate was nearly five times greater than the na­tional av­er­age, yet it re­ceived a sat­is­fac­tory rat­ing from the FMCSA, the NTSB said.

Less than three months af­ter the crash, the ad­min­is­tra­tion shut down the car­rier af­ter giv­ing it an un­sat­is­fac­tory safety rat­ing, FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne said Mon­day.

The in­ci­dent was one of sev­eral fa­tal bus crashes in early morn­ing hours in­volv­ing fa­tigued driv­ers, in­clud­ing 2011 crashes that killed 15 in New York City and one that killed four in Doswell, Vir­ginia, the NTSB said.

Fa­tigue was blamed in a crash that killed 13 peo­ple on In­ter­state 10 near Palm Springs on Oct. 23, 2016 when a char­ter bus trav­el­ing from a casino plowed into the rear of a big-rig whose driver had fallen asleep dur­ing a free­way clo­sure. The truck driver was re­cently charged with 13 counts of ve­hic­u­lar man­slaugh­ter with gross neg­li­gence.

The NTSB said the Au­gust 2016 crash out­side of Liv­ingston would not have been as bad if a stronger guardrail pre­vented the bus from strik­ing the sign­post.

MERCED SUN-STAR FILE PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY ANDREW KUHN

Res­cue crews re­spond to the scene of a char­ter bus crash on north­bound High­way 99 be­tween At­wa­ter and Liv­ingston on Aug. 2, 2016. Ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, the bus car­ry­ing about 30 peo­ple struck a large pole hold­ing the high­way exit sign for Ham­matt Av­enue.

Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gate the scene of a char­ter bus crash on north­bound High­way 99 be­tween At­wa­ter and Liv­ingston on Aug. 2, 2016.

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