WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s order for a departmental review of bus safety, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) praised the announcement and urged a massive overhaul of safety regulations governing bus safety. Sec. LaHood’s order for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to review commercial bus safety comes after a rash of motorcoach accidents, including the fatal Bluffton University bus crash and three accidents in Texas that killed scores of passengers.
In March, Sens. Hutchison and Brown reintroduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009, which would require DOT to make much-needed upgrades to federal safety standards for motorcoaches, increase driver operating standards and training requirements, and implement important safety-enhancing technologies.
“I applaud Secretary LaHood’s order for a review. This is about saving lives. Too many families have suffered heartbreaking loss because of outdated motorcoach safety standards,” Brown said. “While the Department of Transportation conducts its review, I will continue working with Senator Hutchinson to pass our legislation that would greatly improve industry safety standards and help prevent the kind of tragic events we have seen in recent years. There is no time to waste.”
“For more than a decade, safety advocates and crash victims have urged the Department of Transportation to improve the safety of commercial bus transportation. Every year that bus safety languishes, the lives of American passengers are placed at risk in accidents that should be prevented. I am thrilled that this critical safety issue is finally getting its due consideration,” Hutchison said. “Senator Brown and I have seen how fatal bus crashes have impacted the lives of Texans and Ohioans, and we are determined to prevent these terrible tragedies from happening to other families. Our legislation will help prevent future motorcoach crashes and to reduce fatalities when accidents do occur.”
Since 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board has pressed DOT to enact basic passenger safety protections, including safety belts, crush-resistant roofs, and stronger windows.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009 would require:
• Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
• Anti-ejection glazing on 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.
• Improved commercial driver training. Currently, no training is required by federal regulation.
• Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location, and recorded data not accessible to manipulation by a driver or motor carrier.
Brown and Hutchison’s legislation is an expansion of legislation they introduced in 2007. The Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held an oversight hearing on bus safety in September 2008.
According to the American Bus Association, there were more than 750 million passenger trips by motorcoach in 2007 that covered more than 60 billion miles. Despite an increase in ridership and a lengthy list of motorcoach safety improvements suggested by the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Department of Transportation lacks the ability to implement many basic passenger safety protections.