THOREAU, N. M. — The tractor-trailer involved in a fatal accident near here August 30 was operating outside its granted authority, according to federal records.
The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday released a preliminary accident report saying that a sudden air loss in a left front tire of a tractor-trailer caused the big rig to cross the median on Interstate 40 and strike a Greyhound Lines bus on August 30, killing the bus driver and six passengers.
In addition, one of the twin children of a woman who went into premature labor as a result of the accident died September 9, the NTSB said.
The NTSB said about 12:30 p.m. on August 30, the 2016 Freightliner in combination with a 2017 Utility refrigerated trailer, was traveling east on I-40 when the driver lost control of the vehicle after the sudden air loss, entered a 33-foot-wide depressed earthen median, jackknifed, and continued into the westbound lane, striking the bus carrying 48 passengers and the driver.
The truck, operated by Jag Transportation of Fresno, California, was carrying produce to Memphis, Tennessee, but according to federal records, Jag Transportation had only intrastate authority, meaning it could transport freight only inside the borders of California.
Many states require that their motor carriers who operate exclusively within that state obtain a USDOT number. The federal government does not require intrastate carriers to obtain USDOT registration or authority — with the exception of hazmat carriers; all hazmat carriers, intrastate included, are subject to federal safety regulations.
These intrastate carriers generally are subject to regulatory oversight by the state. (There are certain federal regulations that may apply to intrastate carriers; for example, a CDL is required by the federal government to operate a vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds, or when operating a vehicle transporting 16 or more passengers. If a CDL is required to operate the vehicle, then federal drug-and-alcohol testing regulations also apply.)
The NTSB said after the impact, the trailer separated from the tractor and came to rest in the westbound lane and center median on its right side, spilling its load onto the roadway.
After rolling onto its roof, the tractor came to rest in the median just off the westbound lanes.
The driver of the truck received only minor injuries, the NTSB said.
NTSB inspectors conducted detailed post-crash inspections and no defects were found.
The NTSB said the tire carcass from the left steer axle was shipped to the NTSB laboratory for additional examination.
Investigators are also evaluating maintenance records for the truck and evaluating motor carrier operations and driver performance related to the crash.
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