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California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
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   Author  Topic: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada  (Read 533 times)
ClydeDET
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California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« on: Oct 31st, 2012, 6:17pm »
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The NTSB Accident Investigation Docket is now up on the NTSB site (NTSB.gov). It has a lot of photographs, reports, witness interviews, etc..
 
One rather sad thing is the toxicology report on the train's conductor, who was killed - 0.010 blood alcohol level. If she hadn't been, I suspct there would have been something made of that. As it was - well, it is part of the record.
 
The truck penetrated the Transition crew dorm and the 103 gallons of diesel started and fueled the fire, and the following coach was ripped open by the lead semi-trailer, at second level. At least three of the fatalities among passengers were the result of very severe and extensive blunt trauma in that car, presumeably from car structure displaced by the penetration or the trailer before it was dislodged from striking the signal box by the crossing.
 
The docket is an interesting document, but it is hundreds of pages in toto, so figure to dedicate some time to it.
 
ZERO information on why the truck-driver waited so long to try and stop. Some implication there might have been some brake problems, but I am going to have to look at that data further before I say that could have been the probable cause.


« Last Edit: Nov 9th, 2012, 8:23pm by ClydeDET » Logged
ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #1 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 8:06pm »
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Preliminary report out on this. NTSB finds the driver was inattentive, for unknown reasons, and didn't hit the brakes as soon as he should have and could have seen the crossing was about toi have a train on it. Also he had a lousy record, but the employer couldn't have discovered that because of sorry records and can't be blamed for hiring him.
 
BUT - BIG trouble with the brakes. Part of the anti-lock sensors were inoperative or disconnected and warning lights disconnected, plus other brakes either mal-adjusted or inoperative. Tests show thatIF all the trailer brakes had been operative and properly adjusted, an attempt to stop initiated when the driver did would have stopped the truck short of the crossing. \
 
I foresee a policy-limit payout by the trucking company's liability carrier - and more demanded from the company.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #2 on: Dec 18th, 2012, 6:57am »
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Clyde -  
 
Wish my foggy memory recalled date on this needless tragedy. Thought I had a "tickler" copy to watch for follow up...
 
NTSB? They are the "Accident Report" people, not the tort lawyers, judge and jury. With my long experience in motor freight, the guy  
who owns the trucks is going to have a hard way to go. Here are at least a few of the apparent problems:
 
Following creation of the Federally mandated "C D L" Driver licensing requirements, it brought with it commercial providers running data  
bases of driver records. Services available for at least past two decades. One provider, IIRC, in DAC based in Oklahoma. In this instance,  
a suspicion the driver hired on a handshake, and no efforts at any sort of background check.
 
Related, because of this, a hypothesis the Driver may with some sort of not diagnosed medical condition?
 
The brakes? WHOA! Is that part of Nevada a "Dark Territory" for enforcement? Along the stretch of IH-80, is there no regular enforcement  
by random road checks of equipment passing through? With many States programs, the particular truck, or other "random samples" from  
the fleet, would have shown up in the database.
 
The fact the AMTK Conductor possibly had some drinks a distraction. (I can picture the theater between the attorneys on issue whether  
the testimony belongs on the record. "Move to strike as irrelevant!"?)
 
Ah! Let's see if we can locate the initial file here in the Forum. I know it is out there, and should be brought forward so to recall earlier work.
0815 HR: Just tried a SEARCH on files here. Not getting anywhere.
0830 HR: OK. The detail on HANK'S: http://hankstruckforum.com/htforum/index.php?topic=54158.msg464349#msg464349
 
.........................Vern...................


« Last Edit: Dec 18th, 2012, 8:31am by HwyHaulier » Logged

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ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #3 on: Dec 18th, 2012, 6:25pm »
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Go to the NTSB site. Accident was in 2011, May 24 I think. Press release on the report was 12/11/12.
 
The released prelim report has a bunch of stuff on defects in the information available to the prospective employer so they didn't have notice of all his derelictions (of which NTSB found a bunch). BUNCH of problems with the brakes on the trailers. No discussion of why nobody had caught them before, but mention is amde of thimgs like disconnected sensors and the wires cable-tied up out of the way. And mal-adjusted brakes. Various recommendations are amde.
 
i predict, as stated, BIG financial problems for the company. if I was the DA, might be some criminal problems for the company as well.
 
The prelim report doesn't indicate anything about the (apparent) "Rule G" violation by the deceased conductor. No reason it should - they are looking for reasons for the wreck and what happened, plus human factors involved with survival. Since the con was pretty well certainly killed right on the spot by the truck penetrating the area she was sitting in, that (alcohol she imbibed - not much) would play no role at all, in anything.


« Last Edit: Dec 18th, 2012, 6:26pm by ClydeDET » Logged
HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #4 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 7:44am »
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Clyde -  
 
Well, I entered the caveat that we need to understand NTSB serves more as a role in discovery of facts and circumstances. It is not its  
charge to proffer its objective estimations of (albeit it is an "expert witness" in many respects) the legal consequences and issues. But,  
we both know that...
 
Within context of how drivers are hired on, by overwhelming majority of carriers, there are some notable problems here. From my own  
experience, it is difficult to imagine how an applicant could have slipped through, and absent a documented "paper trail" of prior employment.  
Most carriers use a policy that no record is "no go". Yet, at the same time, the pressures are enormous to locate qualified applicants,  
ready, fit and able to go to work.
 
The on the road equipment safety compliance issues are another mystery. A carrier simply can't have a fleet on the roads, and not have  
an open, working file reporting random stops and on site safety checks. If the unit here hadn't been stopped, there is a presumption that  
other equipment of the same fleet with reports of safety checks. Again, this one presents many puzzles.
 
Agree with the outcome you foresee. This one is near to "gift wrapped" for the lawyers. Too many apparent questions, and where any  
exculpatory evidence?
 
BTW. The AMTK Conductor? Possibility she could have simply had a dose of cold and flu medicine, or other required prescription drugs?  
The issue a distraction and irrelevant, anyway...
 
.........................Vern....................
 


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ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #5 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 1:00pm »
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Vern -
 
I have no comment that would be useful as to how the driver got hired, other than to note what the NTSB says. They are supposed to be the experts on the records and procedures, so i shall defer. Now back when I was packing a Bar Card, might have done curst little of that (especially if i had a client), but now...
 
As to the trailers and their brake condition, I somehow feel sure that the final report will have much to say about inspection records on the trailer set and the company generally. And that a lot more will be said in Court (or at least deposition and in negotiations with the liability carrier). Same can doubtless be anticipated for the driver and how he came to be on the road in a company truck...
 
The fact that the con showed a detectible amount of alcohol is simply something that was noted on necropsy. Clearly had absolutely NOTHING, nada, to do with anything and it is sad it was mentioned. Will not impact findings, liabilities or anything else. A shot of OTC cough medicine could well explain it, too. Though I have found  pretty good OTC cough suppressent that is alcohol free. Also free of nasty cherry flavor. Get it at Medicine Shoppe, Leader Brand "Extra Strength Intense Cough Reliever", made with  20mg of Dextromethorphan and 300 mg of Guaifenesin per dose and alleged to be Sugar Free, Alcohol Free, Non-drowsy. I guess if i was doing anything that called for alertness i would REALLY want to use it instead of other things...
 
Clyde


« Last Edit: Dec 19th, 2012, 1:18pm by ClydeDET » Logged
HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #6 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 3:57pm »
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Clyde - All -  
 
On my own, I have done some "investigative reporter" queries among some long time friends in the business. It helps that I have  
personally performed driver interviewing and qualifying as applicants. Part of it, there is a great deal of requisite paperwork...
 
This is leading to some questions which are becoming apparent. More later. I don't want to try this one on the Forum, and have  
little enthusiasm to build a case with this one...
 
..............................Vern.........................


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Charlie Ricker
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #7 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 7:54pm »
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Clyde/Vern/All--
 
I'm no expert, but I have a CDL in New York State and have driven school buses for 11 years. Just from my own observations, I will relate what I have learned.
 
As you know, at the minimum State DOT requires that all drivers have physicals every year and certainly pull you out of service for the least of medical issues (this happened to me and am now disabled). I wouldn't be surprised in the least if perhaps this gentleman was hired "under the table", or what have you.
 
Another thing I observed over the years is that while commercial trucks are subjected to bi-yearly inspections with a DOT inspector, an "out-fit" that I drove for a few summers over the years found ways to get their vehicles to pass said inspections when I knew there was no chance in hell they were "up-to-par."
 
Purely speculation on my part, however.
 
Charlie


« Last Edit: Dec 19th, 2012, 7:55pm by Charlie Ricker » Logged

~Charlie Ricker

ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #8 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 9:42pm »
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The Accident Doicket on NTSB has a driver history. Worth looking at if you have interest.  Bunch of stuff, not that muvch that looks all that serious as a single incident. BUT - well there is a pattern that would make me, as a prospective employer, pick somebody else unless I was just deparate for a driver.
 
Had a client when i was in practice who ran a dirt business. I made sure he went over the rules on truck maintenance and understood them. I heard from him that the agent for his liability carrier REALLY went over things and then showed up every so often to do an inpection of records, at least, as a condition of maintaining coverage. Probably fair to say he knew Eddie...


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Charlie Ricker
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #9 on: Dec 19th, 2012, 10:46pm »
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Clyde/All:
 
I did go through those files on the NTSB website.......say to say his driving record wasn't sterling! I guess it's not so easy to find really good drivers. I'm not perfect but even where I worked, I kind of cringed watching a few of the drivers out on the road!  
 
Charlie


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HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #10 on: Dec 20th, 2012, 9:25am »
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Clyde - Charlie - All -  
 
Finally had opportunity to locate source for NTSB Report, and much good News coverage. Read some more on NTSB concerns about  
state of equipment, and apparent gaps in driver licensing and qualification. Trying to keep up with the hectic Holiday Season, too...
 
.........................Vern......................
 
 
 


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ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #11 on: Feb 2nd, 2013, 8:02pm »
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The NTSB report is up, dated 12/11/2012. Essentially lays it on the driver and the truck company. Driver didn't start braking near as soon as he should have and defective brakes made it impossible to stop from where he did start. And - if they had been operating properly - initiating braking where he did WOULD have stopped the truck prior to impact.
 
They, properly, make a good deal of the company not knowing what the driver's employment and driving history was, including that there is a pattern of filure to disclose complete informtion by drivers and limited onformation readily available to prospective employers.
 
It appears all of the casualties on the train were from blunt force trauma. The passengers were killed by the No. 1 trailer disconnecting from the tractor, tamping over it and penetrating the first coach on the upper level, where the dead passengers were. WOW.
 
It is an interesting and sad document.
 
Oh - they think the driver might have been distracted because of pain in his right ankle.
 
Happily, the report as issued says NOTHING about the slight alcohol content in the conducter's body fluids.


« Last Edit: Feb 2nd, 2013, 8:15pm by ClydeDET » Logged
Charlie Ricker
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #12 on: Feb 2nd, 2013, 9:50pm »
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As expected, the report is very thorough. I would think there will be plenty of associated litigation, no?
 
Here's a link to the report.......http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2012/HAR1203.pdf
 
Charlie


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HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #13 on: Feb 3rd, 2013, 2:18pm »
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Clyde - Charlie - All -  
 
Charlie: Thanks for precise link. NTSB with its customary, most thorough work.
 
Your correspondent remains astonished how this wreck ever happened! The Report Photos and Diagrams were most helpful.  
The site, however, is much the way I had pictured it before seeing the supporting Photos.
 
I coulda' seen a situation where the truck driver clinically dead at the wheel, but... Yes, there will be lots of work for tort lawyers!  
Yes, it confirms suspicions about structural integrity of the Rail Cars... NTSB makes one think, now doesn't it?
 
........................Vern.......................


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ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #14 on: Feb 3rd, 2013, 6:37pm »
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on Feb 3rd, 2013, 2:18pm, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Clyde - Charlie - All -  
 
Charlie: Thanks for precise link. NTSB with its customary, most thorough work.
 
Your correspondent remains astonished how this wreck ever happened! The Report Photos and Diagrams were most helpful.  
The site, however, is much the way I had pictured it before seeing the supporting Photos.
 
I coulda' seen a situation where the truck driver clinically dead at the wheel, but... Yes, there will be lots of work for tort lawyers!  
Yes, it confirms suspicions about structural integrity of the Rail Cars... NTSB makes one think, now doesn't it?
 
........................Vern.......................

 
 
Well driver was clearly pretty distracted until it was far past time to start slowing down. The findings on the brakes are pretty damning - they say could have stopped short. IF the brakes had been working.
 
I am not sure how you build a car with space for passengers AND have it resistent to penetration by a multi-ton piece of steel striking at hgh speed. My old vector analysis course is too long past to figure out what the impact velocity of the trailer and the first coach was, but since it hit a window it does seem, i see no way at all to have kept it out. After that - well, can-opener effect.
 
I thought Board member Weener;s comment was worth reading and thinking about.
 
And yes, the tort lawyers will be whetting their knives and ordering up court reporters to depose the truck company (mainly).


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George_Harris
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #15 on: Feb 4th, 2013, 3:15am »
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Shortly after the collision happened I looked up information on the location.  Consider that was several months back, I do not have it in front of me, and it is fairly late evening, and I have not yet read the NTSB report - but I will , so take the accuracy of the following in that light.   Although US 95 is a US numbered highway, the traffic volume is fairly low.  (What do you expect?  This is Nevada which is not exactly densely populated.)  Also, the crossing has a significant skew, so that there was a considerably less than 90 degree angle of impact.  
 
Visibility at the crossing was probably in the range of miles, so the train should not have caught him by surprise.  Unless there was something that stopped me, I would have been incliined to angle right and dive off into the desert.  Don't know why the truck driver did not, but then maybe he thought that he would get stopped before he hit the train.  
 
Reading the driver's history and the company's maintenance polices, or lack thereof, it seems they were made for each other.  It could be that their normal operations were on roads where the company was reasonably sure that they would not get caught in any form of inspections as they simply did not happen on their normal routes, or happened very infrequently and without any element of surprise.  
 
Clyde can correct me if I am wrong on this, but I think the law giving the NTSB its powers also prohibits their finding from being used in court, at least in civil actions, if not also criminal.


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George_Harris
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #16 on: Feb 4th, 2013, 3:15am »
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Shortly after the collision happened I looked up information on the location.  Consider that was several months back, I do not have it in front of me, and it is fairly late evening, and I have not yet read the NTSB report - but I will , so take the accuracy of the following in that light.   Although US 95 is a US numbered highway, the traffic volume is fairly low.  (What do you expect?  This is Nevada which is not exactly densely populated.)  Also, the crossing has a significant skew, so that there was a considerably less than 90 degree angle of impact.  
 
Visibility at the crossing was probably in the range of miles, so the train should not have caught him by surprise.  Unless there was something that stopped me, I would have been incliined to angle right and dive off into the desert.  Don't know why the truck driver did not, but then maybe he thought that he would get stopped before he hit the train.  
 
Reading the driver's history and the company's maintenance polices, or lack thereof, it seems they were made for each other.  It could be that their normal operations were on roads where the company was reasonably sure that they would not get caught in any form of inspections as they simply did not happen on their normal routes, or happened very infrequently and without any element of surprise.  
 
Clyde can correct me if I am wrong on this, but I think the law giving the NTSB its powers also prohibits their finding from being used in court, at least in civil actions, if not also criminal.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #17 on: Feb 4th, 2013, 7:44am »
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George - Clyde - All -  
 
Thanks for insights. You are reading it right. There are a couple subtle points in the NTSB work, where it helps to have some trucking exposure.  
Being: 1) Yes, the fleet operator with a business where it serves short haul work with 129,000 lb. GW combinations (compare with prevailing  
80,000 lb. GW standard on most movements). 2) The character of the operations being what they are, NTSB found it somewhat remarkable the  
Carrier holds a US DOT Number. That is, since much of the work entirely Intra State, it is not within FED requirements. And, 3) NTSB quite  
critical of what it deems unacceptable upkeep and repair practices of the fleet noted here. It does not approve of constant "manual adjustment"  
of what are designed as "automatic" systems.
 
Clyde, noted your concerns about what (I guess) a "red herring" of Rail Car structural integrity issues. Who knows how, in comparison, "Heritage"  
Budd Car, single level design would have performed? It is all conjecture and speculation. Tragically, the Laws of Physics worked, too, in the instant  
disaster.
 
George, other "human factors" going on? NTSB raises the issue the Carrier driver was not properly rested. Sleep research in so far makes this a  
clear risk. NTSB may have hinted (I don't want to read between the lines, and infer its positions) that the old Devil, Complacency in play here, too?  
Photos and Diagrams make it quite plain this a "no brainer" grade crossing. Visibilities apparently excellent at this site.
 
....................Vern................


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ClydeDET
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #18 on: Feb 4th, 2013, 2:19pm »
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No, you can't use NTSB findings as such in litigation. but you can sure use them to get pointed at where to find the evidence you need. The tell you where the evidence is and where you need to point your experts.
 
TEsts indicate the driver could see the train and signals at a half-mile at least, plenty of time to stop.  
 
While the trucks operated intra-state (at least generall), the daily run seems to have been over 400 miles and i suspect they got the DOT number so they could grab a contact out of Nevada, or if the mines decided to send ore to an out-of-state mill, they could keep the contract. That's pure speculation on my part.
 
As far as this wreck is concerned, I suspect the rail-car integrity issue is a red herring, but NTSB has always been big on surviveablity factors and will i expect be pushing FRA  and DoT to do something about standards. Appears they have expressed concerns before about cars with low floors (like bi-levels of all sorts) being vulnerable to penetration if hit.
 
I've already expressed my thoughts on the issue of side penetration. to reiterate, I cannot see how a practical railcar (or anything else mobile beyond perhaps a nuclear waste transport cask) could be made that would be proof against a duplicate of this incident. of course i am unaware af any prior incidents when a heavily constructed trailer rared up in the air at around thrity mph at an acute  closing angle and hit a car traveling at 78-79 mph in the windows. George is an engineer and can probably figure the vectors to get the effective impact. I do think that perhaps the issue of having the doors more resistant to fire spread might be a good one, or at lesat not a bad one and doable.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: California Zephyr vs Truck in Nevada
 
« Reply #19 on: Feb 4th, 2013, 4:39pm »
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Clyde - All -  
 
Thanks! IIRC, heritage of NTSB and its mission? It is at home with air line disasters. So there an inherent culture to publish recommendations  
so to better survival in aircraft incidents. Compare, here, how to account for an empty trailer becoming airborne and colliding with a rail car?  
 
.................Vern............
 


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