Federal Motorcoach Safety Legislation Passes Senate Committee

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Federal Motorcoach Safety Legislation Passes Senate Committee

School Transportation News – Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) introduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009 in March on the one-year anniversary of a crash in Atlanta that killed five Bluffton University baseball players after the motorcoach in which they were riding plunged off a freeway overpass. The driver mistook a highway exit for a through-way bus lane.

But representatives of UMA and ABA have previously said the motorcoach and commercial bus industries prefer a proposed bill by Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA) (HR 1135) that would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to perform a study to determine what motorcoach safety requirements should be improved within the next three years. In a separate but related federal motorcoach safety plan unveiled last month by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, NHTSA is directed to prescribe standards for occupant protection that accounts for frontal, side and rear collisions, as well as rollovers, and provide standards for the same items the Brown-Hutchinson bill requires. The bill specifies consideration of retrofitting of this equipment, but does not require it.

Specifically, the Brown-Hutchinson bill seeks to ensure occupants are not ejected in a crash through the use of three-point lap/shoulder belts and window glazing; electronic stability control technology; improved crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers; electronic on-board recorders to ensure compliance with federal hours-of-service regulations; and a comprehensive evaluation of improved fire protection by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior. The latter provision would extend operator training on fire safety and would require NHTSA to review fire safety technologies, followed by new performance standards based on the results of NHTSA’s evaluation.

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