WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on the five-year anniversary of the Bluffton motorcoach accident, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for honoring the crash victims by passing bipartisan, comprehensive tour bus safety legislation. Brown’s bill, Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, is aimed at reducing the number of tour bus crashes and related fatalities and injuries. Included in the Senate Transportation Jobs bill, which is being debated on the Senate floor over the coming weeks, 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.
“Five years ago today, seven members of the Bluffton community were killed by a deadly bus crash. Today, we pause to remember the students and others who were lost in that horrific accident,” Brown said. “But sadly enough, five years later, critical tour bus safety standards have still not been enacted. How many more deaths—in Ohio, Texas, New York, New Jersey and across the country—do we have to witness? The sense of urgency remains just as clear five years later.
“Today is a painful reminder that safety improvements for tour bus operations are long overdue,” Brown added. “The number of serious accidents and tragic deaths will only grow if we do not take action.”
Brown and 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.