Sooner or later it was bound to happen. The tragic, and shockingly catastrophic accident that happened at the start of rush hour yesterday at the Mecklenburg/Gaston county line was however completely preventable.
The cause of this accident was beyond the failure of the bus driver to reduce speed. The "chain" of events began with an apparent glitch in the North Carolina Department of Transportation NCPass System and the Motor Carrier Enforcement Section of the State Highway Patrol which operates the North and South bound I-85 weigh stations, and stadd failure to recognize the developing congestion along I-85.
How many times have you seen the trucks backed up at tiny I-85 weight station just outside of Charlotte, with 20 30 even 40 trucks waiting in line pulled onto the shoulder?
Since 2007 the State of North Carolina has used a transponder system that is supposed to prevent back ups by giving some trucks a green light to bypass the weigh station.
The trouble is the NCPass system is not fool proof, nor is it idiot proof.
When the system breaks down trucks begin to back up and if the Motor Transport Officers don't have enough sense to shut down enforcement operations that are backing up traffic an accident is bound to happen.
Trucks backing up at a weigh station is a clear hazard, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted while commerce is held up by North Carolina's transport police.
This is why North Carolina adopted the NCPass system for trucking companies in 2007.
The trouble is not all trucks are eligible, and most out of state trucking companies do not participate. Things get worse when the computers running the NCPass system experience a glitch and before long trucks start to back up.
In theory this is how the NCPass is supposed to work:
As a truck approaches a weigh station, an electronic roadside reader uses identification information from the transponder to verify the vehicle’s compliance history against a database. The roadside reader then sends a signal to the transponder, alerting the driver to bypass the weigh station or pull into the station for inspection. Trucks with a good compliance history are still subject to occasional spot safety and compliance checks.
But when there is a system glitch or a rush of non NCPass trucks, backs up occur and in this case an accident of massive proportions.