Causes still undetermined for fatal turnpike crash

The initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding a Pennsylvania Turnpike crash in January involving one UPS truck, one FedEx truck, and a motorcoach does not yet suggest a possible cause for the crash, which killed two UPS drivers, the motorcoach driver and two passengers. The other motorcoach passengers received injuries.

Officials suggest the coach may have had as many as 61 passengers aboard.

The preliminary report indicated a 2005 Van Hool with passengers and a driver on westbound Interstate 70 near Mount Pleasant in Westmoreland County crashed during a light snowfall on Jan. 5. The coach was operated by Z&D Tour of Rockaway, New Jersey.

Initial reports suggest that while traveling around a curve on a slight downward slope, the motorcoach veered across the median into the shoulder of the left lanes, corrected and crossed back to the right shoulder before colliding with a steep earthen embankment.

The motorcoach rolled onto its right side and stopped diagonally across the westbound lanes. There it was struck by a FedEx Ground tractor-trailer occupied by two drivers. That truck then was struck by a United Parcel Service tractor-trailer that also carried a driver and co-driver. The UPS truck was subsequently struck by a Mercedes, which was then struck by an additional UPS tractor-trailer. No one was injured in the final two vehicles involved in the crash.

“All aspects of the crash remain under investigation while the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar events,” said the preliminary report released Feb. 6.

NTSB said it “is gathering records on the commercial drivers involved in the crash” and “evaluating occupant protection, human performance, vehicle performance, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s snow- and ice-removal procedures, collision avoidance technology installed on the three truck-tractors, and the safety culture of Z&D Tour.”

Cooperating in the investigation are the Pennsylvania State Police, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, United Parcel Service, FedEx Ground, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Daimler Trucks North America. Both trucks that struck the motorcoach were 2018 Freightliner Cascadias.

The FMCSA snapshot for FedEx shows 2,231 vehicle inspections with 128 vehicles places out of service; 3,061 driver inspections with 26 drivers placed out of service. The company has been involved with 14 fatal crashes and 154 injuries.

In the past 24 months, United Parcel Service has had 9,887 vehicle inspections with 742 vehicles being placed out of service, along with 14,303 driver inspections and 141 being placed out of service. The company has not been associated with a fatality and only one injury the last two years.

A recent Department of Labor investigation directed UPS Freight to pay a driver that was terminated for refusing to drive a vehicle without an electronic logging device $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages, and $2,700 in back damages. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fined the company $9,220.

The FMCSA company snapshot for Z&D Tour lists eight power units and 15 drivers covering 1.3 million miles in 2018. Its inspection report listed below-average out of service rates for vehicles and drivers with one of nine vehicles placed out of service and none of 12 drivers who were inspected. The company had no crashes on its record for the previous 24 months. A post-crash compliance review revealed a “satisfactory” rating.


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