NTSB calls for increased brake inspection training, pretrip review

Feb. 1, 2003
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require formal training and

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require formal training and testing to certify all brake inspectors, and revise its regulations to require minimum pretrip inspection procedures for determining brake adjustment.

The recommendation comes after a NTSB investigation into a May 31, 2001, collision between an 18-wheel truck and a school bus in Mountainburg AR. NTSB determined the collision was caused by reduced braking efficiency of the truck's brakes, which had been poorly maintained and inadequately inspected.

Three children died in the collision. Two children received serious injuries, and four had minor injuries. The drivers of both vehicles sustained minor injuries.

Post-accident examination showed that eight of the truck's 10 brakes were either out of adjustment or non-functional, with four of them unable to provide any braking force, even without taking into account heat buildup and drum expansion that occurred while the truck was traversing hilly terrain, according to NTSB.

The driver said he had last adjusted the truck's brakes four days before the crash, and had visually inspected them the morning of the accident. However, NTSB found that the driver did not follow recommended practice for measuring pushrod stroke during the pretrip inspection, and a visual inspection did not allow him to determine that the brakes were out of adjustment.

Some of the brakes had been non-operational for a period of time, and the company's vehicles exhibited evidence of poor maintenance. While the mechanic had one year of experience in brake maintenance, as required by FMCSA, he apparently was not prepared to maintain the truck's brakes in safe working order, according to NTSB.

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