Federal Regulators Pursuing New Rules For Buses

LCT Staff
Posted on November 11, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said late last month that it will soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) recommending that all new motorcoaches be equipped with safety belts.

The announcement comes in the wake of a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting focusing on the August 8, 2008 crash of an illegal bus operator in Sherman, Texas that killed 17 people and injured 39.

NHTSA “expects to propose soon that seatbelts be required on motorcoaches to help prevent passenger ejections during a collision,” agency spokeswoman Ellen Martin said in a statement, adding that, this month, “the Department of Transportation will release its Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, which will lay out concrete steps for addressing driver fatigue or inattention and improving operator maintenance.”

Lax law enforcement and inadequate regulatory oversight by Texas officials were cited as major factors in the rogue operator crash. NTSB investigators also reported that the driver tested positive post-crash for cocaine and alcohol use. The direct cause of the crash was a blowout from an underinflated tire with a slow leak that wasn’t checked before the trip.

The facts of the case are that the carrier was engaged in an illegal operation; both the bus and the driver were found to be in serious violation of federal safety regulation; the bus was operating with a recapped front axle tire, which was seriously under-inflated due to a puncture; and the driver tested positively for cocaine and alcohol use in a post-crash test. All are serious violations of the federal safety rules.

“ABA questions the Board’s emphasis on modifications to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual, when conditions such as that found in the subject coach are not common issues with responsible compliant carriers,” said ABA President & CEO Peter J. Pantuso. “Illegal or rogue carriers do not read or comply with federal safety regulations.

NTSB recommended that NHTSA require new motorcoaches to be equipped with direct tire pressure monitoring systems and issue performance standards on overhead luggage racks to prevent head and neck injuries.

NTSB also recommended new tests for bridge railings; and better oversight procedures by the FMCSA, including tire pressure checks before trips, improvements in vehicle inspections, and tougher substance abuse screening of new drivers.

The NTSB recommendations and summary of its investigation are available ONLINE.

ABA Web Site here

Source: American Bus Association

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