WASHINGTON, D.C. – After two deadly tour bus crashes that claimed six lives in Virginia and Washington state this holiday weekend, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) today renewed their call for the swift passage of bipartisan legislation to strengthen bus safety and improve driver training to reduce the number of tour bus crashes and related fatalities. Earlier this month, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee—on which Hutchison serves as Ranking Member—unanimously approved the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act.
“This weekend’s crashes are an urgent and painful reminder that safety improvements for tour bus operations are long overdue,” Brown said. “This tour bus safety bill employs common-sense measures that can easily be adopted to save lives. Its passage by the Senate is long overdue and critical to ensure that future bus trips don’t turn into tragedies.”
“The deadly bus crashes over the holiday weekend are another tragic example of why safety improvements to bus travel are urgently needed. Basic safety measures such as passenger seat belts may have helped prevent some of the deaths and injuries in these recent crashes. While seatbelts have been required in automobiles for decades, bus passengers are not afforded the same simple safety device. This is unacceptable. With the summer travel season upon us, it is critical for the Senate to pass Sen. Brown and my legislation without any further delay.” said Hutchison.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act would reduce the number of motorcoach crashes and related fatalities. Brown and Hutchison first introduced the legislation following a 2007 crash of a tour bus carrying 33 Bluffton University baseball players that claimed seven lives. Brown and Hutchison have introduced the bill in the previous two Congresses. U.S. Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
In March 2011, Brown testified before the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing entitled: ‘Ensuring the Safety of Our Nation's Motorcoach Passengers.” Brown was joined at the hearing by John and Joy Betts, who lost their son David in the Bluffton University crash. The bill was adopted unanimously by the Commerce Committee on May 5.
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, minimal 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.