NTSB Releases Finding of I-40 Accident Investigation

Wednesday, September 01, 2004
The nation’s tugboat, towboat, and barge industry is committed to improving public safety and preventing accidents involving vessels and bridges, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) pledged as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released the results of its investigation of the May 2002 I-40 bridge accident at Webbers Falls, Oklahoma.

AWO President Thomas A. Allegretti called the NTSB findings “important information that will help our industry and make the traveling public safer. AWO is a partner with the NTSB and the Coast Guard in improving marine transportation safety. We are committed to studying, learning from and applying the lessons of this investigation for our industry. In particular, AWO would be pleased to provide any assistance possible with regard to the NTSB recommendation that the Coast Guard evaluate the utility and effectiveness of wheelhouse alerter systems on inland towing vessels for preventing accidents.” Since the I-40 accident, AWO has worked cooperatively with government to understand the causes of barge/bridge accidents and take action to make marine transportation safer. Highlights include:

The Coast Guard-AWO Bridge Allision Working Group, established immediately after the I-40 accident to study the frequency and causes of towing vessel bridge accidents. The Working Group report, released in May 2003, recommended a package of prevention measures to improve bridge safety.

A pilot project with the U.S. Coast Guard to implement Crew Endurance Management systems as a means of improving decision-making fitness and increasing safety levels on towing vessels.

Sample policies on Bridge Transit Safety and Operator Incapacitation, developed by AWO safety experts for use as tools for inland and coastal operations. AWO’s Board of Directors will vote in October to add requirements for safe bridge transit and operator incapacitation procedures to the AWO Responsible Carrier Program, a third-party-audited safety management system with which all AWO members must comply as a condition of membership in the association.

The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004, signed into law in August, which ushers in a historic change in towing vessel regulation. This Coast Guard-proposed and AWO-supported legislation establishes an inspection program for towing vessels based on a safety management system. The new legislation is directly responsive to a 2000 NTSB recommendation that the Coast Guard seek legislative authority to require a safety management system for towing vessels

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