WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) comprehensive tour bus safety legislation cleared the Senate by a vote of 74-22 today. Included in the Senate’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, Brown’s Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act is aimed at reducing the number of tour bus crashes and related fatalities and injuries. The legislation would increase and expand safety requirements for motorcoach drivers and companies. Brown first introduced the legislation—which was passed unanimously by a key Senate panel last year—following a 2007 crash of a tour bus carrying 33 Bluffton University baseball players that claimed seven lives.
“This bill will save lives,” Brown said. “Five years after a tour bus that claimed the lives of seven young people from the Bluffton University community, the Senate has passed legislation to enact critical tour bus safety standards.
“These safety measures are common-sense safety features that have been widely used,” Brown continued. “By equipping buses with seatbelts, stronger roofs, and safer windows, we can prevent deaths and minimize injuries. With bus ridership increasing, it’s more important than ever to pass this legislation. We need to ensure bus trips don’t turn into tragedies.”
Brown and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have introduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act in the previous two Congresses. U.S. Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) has introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last Congress, the bill unanimously passed out of committee with broad bipartisan support but was held up on the floor by a single senator, never receiving a full Senate vote.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act is based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations—some of which were first proposed in 1968. The bill would require:
- Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
- Improved commercial driver training. Currently, no training is required by federal regulation.
- Anti-ejection glazing windows to prevent passengers from being easily thrown outside the motorcoach.
- Strong, crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers.
- Improved protection against fires by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior, and better training for operators in the case of fire.
- A National Commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry to ensure that only medically qualified examiners conduct physical examinations of drivers and a medical certificate process to ensure that all certificates are valid and no unqualified operator is allowed to drive.
- Strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety inspections including roadside inspections, safety audits, and state and motor carrier programs for identifying vehicle defects.
- Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location that cannot be tampered with by the driver.