The above photo taken by Jason Warick of CBC news provides the first available view of the struck side of the Peterbilt road tractor that was involved in the Humboldt Broncos collision last week. There appears to be absolutely no crush to the front or left side of this truck that can be related to the disintegration of the front end of the bus. In fact, the lack of damage is so obvious that it leads to the likely conclusion that this portion of the truck combination was not directly struck and that the front of bus may have made initial contact somewhere to the rear of the road tractor. This fact could have been resolved had police allowed some basic photos to be released before speculation mounted. The problem occurs repeatedly when officials insist on keeping almost every fact about major events like these secret while blaming the public and news media for jumping to conclusions.
The fact still remains, why does the front of the Broncos bus appear to have disintegrated? Even if it becomes revealed that an engine control module on the truck was not equipped with an event data recorder, or even if that capability was shut off, as it often is, a speed analysis can still be conducted in the conventional way of a momentum analysis. It can be difficult to judge the distance that the truck travelled from impact to rest however the distance visible in the post-impact photos does not suggest an extreme distance and therefore it does not suggest that the truck was travelling at an extreme speed at the time of impact with respect to the reported 100 km/h posted maximum speed. And we still do not know about what decelerations might have occurred before the truck reached the impact. But the combined speeds of the truck and bus will need to be known to further evaluate why the bus structure disintegrated. We do not agree that the public should stop speculating. Speculation is the fire that burns the official’s butts and pressures them toward providing the objective information that might otherwise be left unreported.
Surprisingly there has actually been some beneficial questioning and analysis performed by some news agencies that rarely exists. Several news agencies have now focused on the issue of the blockage created by the trees at the south-east quadrant of the intersection and they have also raised awareness to the six persons who died at this intersection in a collision in 1997. It has been reported that both roadways were signed with maximum speeds of 100 km/h. At that speed a vehicle travels 27.8 metres every second or just over 83 metres in 3 seconds. It could be a simple process of starting from the intersection of the two roads move backwards 83 metres along each road and then make an observation whether a person standing at that location on the one road can see a person standing at that location on the other road. If the trees create a blockage of that line of sight then we suggest there is a problem. Even with a braking system that is fully functional, a truck can generally not attain a deceleration rate greater than 0.6 g during maximum braking. Thus the truck or bus could need almost 50 metres of maximum braking in order to come to stop, without including the usual delay of 0.5 seconds or more that is needed for the truck/bus to begin braking after the brake pedal is applied. If we add a 1.0 second perception-response delay (27.8 metres) to that 50 metres we already have a minimum distance of almost 78 metres to bring a truck or bus to a stop even in the most favourable scenarios. So where is the edge of the trees? Someone who lives near the site or any news reporter could easily measure the edge of the trees with respect to the perpendicular location of each roadway centre-line. But even this basic information is not available.
Despite not having any reasonable site measurements we have conducted an analysis of the above scenario using the general dimensions available from the Google Maps view of the site. We have taken the aerial view shown in our news posting of April 8th, 2018 and we have added the analysis as shown in the view below. Since no site measurements are available we simply used the Google measurement tool to obtain the distance from the centre of the intersection to the driveway of the residence south of the intersection and found that to be about 78 metres. This 78 metres is shorter than the 83 metres needed for a 3-second pre-impact observation time discussed above. Using a “circle” tool we created two circles with a diameter of 78 metres and placed their edges at the centre of the intersection. Therefore the opposing edge of each circle indicates a location 78 metres along each roadway. From this 78-metre-location we then drew a diagonal line between these two 78-metre points (in bright pink below) to show what the line of sight would be from this location. Clearly one can see that the actual line of sight is nowhere close to what it should be. The grouping trees is clearly blocking that line of sight from just 78 metres.