[Senate Hearing 110-1219]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 110-1219
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SURFACE TRANSPORTATION
AND MERCHANT MARINE INFRASTRUCTURE,
SAFETY, AND SECURITY
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE,
SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 18, 2008
Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
80-274 PDF WASHINGTON : 2013
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office Internet: bookstore.gpo.gov Phone: toll free (866) 512-1800; DC
area (202) 512-1800 Fax: (202) 512-2104 Mail: Stop IDCC, Washington, DC
0SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii, Chairman
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, Texas,
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts TED STEVENS, Alaska
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota JOHN McCAIN, Arizona
BARBARA BOXER, California OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine
BILL NELSON, Florida GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington JOHN ENSIGN, Nevada
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey JOHN E. SUNUNU, New Hampshire
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
THOMAS R. CARPER, Delaware DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri JOHN THUNE, South Dakota
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
Margaret L. Cummisky, Democratic Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Lila Harper Helms, Democratic Deputy Staff Director and Policy Director
Christine D. Kurth, Republican Staff Director and General Counsel
Paul Nagle, Republican Chief Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AND MERCHANT MARINE
INFRASTRUCTURE, SAFETY, AND SECURITY
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey, GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon, Ranking
Chairman JOHN McCAIN, Arizona
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, Texas
Virginia OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington JOHN THUNE, South Dakota
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
THOMAS R. CARPER, Delaware
CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held on September 18, 2008............................... 1
Statement of Senator Hutchison................................... 3
Statement of Senator Lautenberg.................................. 1
Betts, John, Motorcoach Safety Now............................... 66
Prepared statement........................................... 68
Brown, Hon. Sherrod, U.S. Senator from Ohio...................... 4
Forman, Stephen, West Brook Bus Crash Families, Beaumont, Texas.. 61
Prepared statement........................................... 64
Gillan, Jacqueline S., Vice President, Advocates for Highway and
Auto Safety.................................................... 40
Prepared statement........................................... 41
Hill, Hon. John, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Prepared statement........................................... 7
Kelly, David, Acting Administrator, National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration.......................................... 24
Prepared statement........................................... 25
Pantuso, Peter J., President and CEO, American Bus Association... 34
Prepared statement........................................... 35
Rosenker, Hon. Mark V., Acting Chairman, National Transportation
Safety Board................................................... 12
Prepared statement........................................... 13
Letter, dated February 18, 2008, from Peter T. Dishart,
President, Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association
(EPGAA), to the Hon. Kay Bailey Hutchison...................... 80
Letter, dated September 15, 2008, from Yen-Chi Le, Ph.D., to
Chairman Inouye of the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee....................................... 81
Letter, dated September 18, 2008 from Barry A. Mesley to the
Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security and the Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation.......................... 83
Letter, dated September 18, 2008 from Lynn Mesley to the Senate
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security and the Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation.......................... 82
Response to written questions submitted by Hon. Frank R.
Jacqueline S. Gillan......................................... 84
Hon. John Hill............................................... 83
United Motorcoach Association, prepared statement................ 79
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2008
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and
Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security,
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:39 p.m., in
room SR-253, Russell Senate Office Building, Hon. Frank R.
Lautenberg, Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK R. LAUTENBERG,
U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW JERSEY
Senator Lautenberg. The hearing will come to order, and I
welcome everyone here to today's discussion on the safety of
our nation's buses and the passengers who ride in them. This is
a hearing of the Surface Transportation, Merchant Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee.
Our goal is to examine the current laws and safety
practices that govern motorcoaches, known as the ``over-the-
road'' buses, and how we can improve them.
Buses play a critical role in our nation's transportation
network. They connect cities and communities that are often
without access to trains or commercial airlines. They take
school sports teams to games, tourist groups sightseeing all
over our Nation and help evacuate populations being threatened
by hurricanes or other natural disasters. And we saw just this
last week during Hurricane Ike when buses were shuttling
evacuees to safety.
In 2006, 631 million passenger trips were taken on a fleet
of almost 40,000 motorcoaches in the United States. More of
these vehicles are operated out of my state of New Jersey than
in any other state in the country. So it is very important for
us, as it is to me and everyone on this Subcommittee, that
these buses are safe.
Unfortunately, there have been some serious crashes. Over
the last decade, an average of 16 motorcoach passengers and
drivers have been killed in crashes each year. And just last
month in New Jersey, two tour buses collided, sending one down
a 50-foot ravine. Fortunately, nobody was killed, but many were
And I know that we are joined today by many of the victims
and their families of the West Brook High School and Bluffton
University bus crashes. So I thank you for being here. Your
work will help prevent a tragedy like the ones that you have
experienced from happening again.
And like these victims and their families, my concern is
that we are not doing enough to regulate bus companies and
protect riders from injury or even death. We have a picture
here that is really shocking. This is evidence that more safety
oversight is needed. This is a picture received by my office of
a bus wheel. The bus belongs to a curbside operator right here
in Washington, and the photo was taken as the bus pulled up to
start loading passengers. Now, this is a hanger here, in case
you cannot see it, and that is what is used to hold this brake
pad together here. Now, these companies, you know, do not use
bus depots, but they pick passengers up and drop them off at
the curb. And this was spotted by a police officer, and that is
how this picture was taken. But is that not a disgraceful
thing, put together with a coat hanger? It is unbelievable.
One safety expert who saw the picture commented that this
is typical for curbside operators who have very little
oversight. The reason that we need better laws and oversight is
the carelessness with human life that this picture
Two months ago, Congress passed the Over-the-Road
Transportation Accessibility Act, which was an important step
to put in place common sense regulation for approving new bus
operators. Now, thanks to that bill, the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration now requires that bus companies meet
disability access laws as intended by the Americans with
Disabilities Act. So I am pleased that this subcommittee acted
to make sure that that bill became law.
But there is still work to do to make buses safer for their
travelers and drivers, as well as for passengers of other
vehicles on the road. Buses still lack many critical safety
features that can save lives. Most school buses lack seat
belts, for instance, and there are no standards for roof
strength, which is critical when a bus rolls over. And unfit
and fatigued drivers continue to be able to get behind the
So we should be making safety improvements to the vehicles
themselves, as well as completing work in the comprehensive
medical oversight program to prevent unfit drivers from
operating commercial vehicles, as required by the SAFETEA-LU
Many of the improvements that we need to make buses safer
are similar to those that we also need in big trucks. For
instance, we know that fatigue is a problem for both bus and
truck drivers alike, and requiring electronic on-board
recorders can make sure that both are ready to be on the road.
The vehicle may look different, but many of the safety problems
and inadequate oversight are the same.
And as we look to reauthorize the Federal surface
transportation programs during the next Congress, we need to
thoroughly revamp both our bus and truck safety programs.
Now, Senators Brown and Hutchison have introduced
legislation to begin that process, and as the families and
victims who are here with us today know all too well, we must
act to improve the safety of our buses and the men, women, and
children who ride them.
So I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses as we
continue that effort.
Now I would like to turn to Senator Hutchison for any
statement that she would like to make, and then we will call on
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON,
U.S. SENATOR FROM TEXAS
Senator Hutchison. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate our having this hearing because it is this hearing
that will allow us to mark up a bill that will send this bill
to the floor, and I look forward to having your input and those
of other members of our Committee in order to do that.
Let me just say that we do have here many of the families
and victims of bus accidents who have taken their time to come
and try to assure that other families will not have to go
through what they have had to. And Senator Brown and I just had
a press conference outside in front of a bus to show some of
the things that can be done, and we are so appreciative of the
families who came to testify. And I am very pleased that we are
going to have some of the experts here also testify about what
our bill would do and what other things need to be done for bus
The fact of the matter is, we have had just in August in
this country major bus accidents that caused fatalities in
Texas, Nevada, Mississippi, and New Jersey. The Texas one has
representatives here, and I would like to ask the group from
Houston who have family members and victims from the bus
accident in Sherman to please stand.
They were out at the press conference. So I am sure that
they will be coming in.
And then we have from West Brook High School in Beaumont
victims and families of the accident that was held to the
soccer team there. Yes, thank you very much.
And I know that Senator Brown has constituents here from
the bus accident with the Bluffton baseball team. And if they
would stand. Yes, thank you.
This just shows, I think, Mr. Chairman, how deeply these
families feel that they are continuing to try to do something
that will allow this to become a safer country for bus
Let me just say a couple of things about the bill that
Senator Brown and I have introduced. It has two points.
One is we have technology now that can prevent the accident
itself. The stabilization control technology has now been
developed. Mr. Hill, who will testify later, told me about how
that technology has improved. Collision avoidance systems are
also available now that can keep an accident from happening.
And we can upgrade our standards for certification and for
tracing when a bus company is decertified and then goes in
under another name and keeps the same unfit buses. We can do
more in the area of requirements for inspections. All of these
things would help in the prevention of the crash itself.
But accidents will happen. So the other part of our bill
will deal with survivability of an accident, and that means
seat belts on buses. This is something that we believe will
make a big difference and something that is very easy to be
done in buses because we know it has been done in other
In addition to that, we can put glazing on the windows that
will keep people from being ejected, which is a major cause of
fatality and injury.
And looking at the way that we can reinforce roofs because
many of these buses have glass tops so that you can look out,
but we could also reinforce those, again, with new technology.
And we want to have the ability to study how we can better
reinforce those roofs.
So we have two parts of our bill: prevention and
survivability. And that is what we want to move forward, Mr.
Chairman. We thank you for having this hearing so that we will
be able to move forward. I hope it will be this year. If it not
this year, we are looking forward to at least early next year
having this bill come out with Committee input to be able to do
something for the future travelers in our states and throughout
our country. And I think that all of us know that we can do it.
Thank you very much.
Senator Lautenberg. Congratulations to you and to Senator
Brown. I join with you in terms of the concerns and want to get
We now call on Senator Brown. Pleased to have you here with
STATEMENT OF HON. SHERROD BROWN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM OHIO
Senator Brown. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate
it, and Senator Hutchison, thank you for being here certainly
and for your terrific work in moving this forward.
I would like to thank all the witnesses who are joining us
today, especially John Betts. John and Joy lost their son
David, a member of Ohio's Bluffton University baseball team, in
March 2007. They were on a trip to Florida for a baseball
tournament when the bus lost control on a poorly marked exit
ramp just outside Atlanta and toppled from an overpass. Five
players died. The bus driver and his wife died, and several
players were pretty badly injured in that accident.
Since that day, Joy and John, joined by Barry and Lynn
Mesley, also here today, who lost their son also from the
Bluffton baseball team, have been courageous and vocal
advocates for motorcoach safety. And it takes special people
who are willing to work through their grief and fight for sort
of the next group of people so they do not have to have the
grief that so many people behind me have had to endure in the
last several years.
The final report from the Bluffton motorcoach accident
released this spring echoes the recommendations that NTSB has
been publishing for years and aligns itself with the safety
improvements incorporated in the legislation that Senator
Hutchison and I have been working on for some time.
Specifically, NTSB underscored some major safety shortfalls
from that accident that must be addressed such as better
protection systems for occupants, stronger passenger safety
standards, improved safety equipment and devices, and the need
for on-board recorders with the capability to collect crash
data. These technologies are not exotic. Many have been around
for a long time, but since they are not required, they simply
have not been installed in American motorcoaches.
Jackie Gillan, who is the Vice President of Advocates for
Highway and Auto Safety, who perhaps has done more than anybody
in this city or anywhere else on vehicle safety and highway
safety, recounts through history, through the last 40 years of
history, how all the major motor vehicle safety measures that
have happened have happened because Congress passed them, and
Federal and State agencies do not do it. It really is up to the
U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as it was with
seat belts and air bags and all the kinds of things that many
people--and you, I know, Mr. Chairman, have been so supportive
of all of those.
As a father of four, I find it particularly disturbing to
know students are still driving and riding in vehicles without
even the option of buckling up. Seat belts, window glazings,
fire extinguishers--as I said, those are not new technologies.
They are common sense safety features that are widely used that
are not highly expensive to do, especially when the bus is
actually being manufactured. Yet, mandating them, as
recommended by NTSB, has been languishing for years.
Last month was yet another fatal month for motorcoach
passengers, as family members of victims of the Sherman, Texas
crash, who are here today, show. There is no question that with
stronger safety regulations, the tragedies and fatalities in
motorcoach accidents can, in fact, be minimized. If the
technology to save lives and reduce injuries exists--and it
certainly does--we must make every effort to put that
technology to use, and since the bus companies and motorcoach
companies have not done it on their own, it is up to us to make
It is my hope that in the future, parents will not have to
endure the anguish and the grief that the Mesleys and the
Bettses and Ms. Lee, who is here on behalf of her mother who
died, and the Formans--Steve Forman here with his daughter who
was injured. That just should not happen anymore.
I thank the Chairman for his interest.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much, Senator Brown.
Senator Hutchison, do you have anything else that you want
Senator Hutchison. No, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Lautenberg. Then I would thank you very much for
being with us, Senator Brown.
Now I would like to welcome today's first panel of
witnesses to discuss their ideas and their plans on how to
improve the safety of motorcoaches and the passengers who use
First, John Hill is the Administrator of the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration at the Department of
Transportation. His agency is responsible for bus and truck
safety, and he is in charge of several programs to address the
safety challenges that we are discussing today.
Mr. David Kelly, Acting Administrator at the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration. His agency sets safety
standards for every new motorcoach sold in our country.
And Mark Rosenker is the Acting Chairman of the National
Transportation Safety Board. There are several recommendations
on the NTSB's most wanted safety improvement list for buses.
I thank all of you for coming today and lending your
expertise to this hearing. Mr. Hill, I would call on you first.
Please recognize that we have a 5-minute time limit. We would
ask you to try to stay within that timeframe.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN HILL, ADMINISTRATOR,
FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION
Mr. Hill. Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. It is a pleasure to
be with you today, and Members of the Subcommittee; Senator
Hutchison, thank you for appearing today as well.
As announced by Secretary Mary Peters, the total number of
fatalities on the Nation's highways declined 3.9 percent in
2007, the lowest level since 1994. 2007 had the lowest fatal
bus crashes since 2004, down 8.6 percent from 2006.
During my tenure as Administrator, I have redirected the
agency's resources and engaged our state partners to prioritize
motorcoach programs by expediting safety audits and complete
more compliance reviews and inspections, by requiring each
state to establish a motorcoach safety program.
The devastation of the August 8 crash in Sherman, Texas, is
a solemn reminder of the need for rigorous oversight and strong
penalties for unsafe bus carriers. Due to the illegal behavior
of the motor carrier involved, 17 people lost their lives and
15 others were injured. The carrier involved in this tragic
crash was operating illegally and was a reincarnation of
another unsafe motorcoach company that FMCSA had placed out of
service in June. Both companies were owned and operated by the
same individual, and the newly created carrier involved in the
crash was placed out of service the day following the crash.
Although the National Transportation Safety Board's
investigation is continuing, at this time FMCSA has discovered
at least four deficiencies with the motor carrier and the
equipment involved in the crash. First, the motor carrier did
not have the authority to operate as a for-hire motor carrier.
Second, the tire that blew was a recap/retread tire installed
in the front steering axle, which is impermissible under our
regulations. Third, the carrier did not ensure that the driver
was medically qualified, and last, the carrier was not
conducting pre-employment drug testing.
While investigating, FMCSA determined that the motor
carrier was operating motorcoaches that were being used by a
third passenger carrier. The agency immediately dispatched
investigators and issued an imminent hazard out-of-service
order on this third carrier, shutting down any operations
involving the carriers implicated in the crash.
The bus involved in the Sherman crash had been inspected as
recently as July 31 and did not have a retread tire at that
time. The vehicle and driver deficiencies permitted by this
carrier demonstrate how far some motor carriers will go to defy
existing laws and regulations.
Fortunately, the majority of the industry, nearly 3,900
active passenger carriers, operates properly and delivers its
In 2007, FMCSA and our State partners more than doubled the
number of compliance reviews, referred to as the CR's, to 1,300
from 600 in 2006. This represents a 185 percent increase over
the number of compliance reviews in 1985. To date in 2008, the
agency has completed 1,257 compliance reviews on motorcoach
We also have a safe stat system which identifies high-risk
motor carriers in need of agency oversight. Consistent with
NTSB recommendations, we revised that system to identify
additional passenger carriers that will receive compliance
FMCSA and its State partners completed approximately
148,000 bus inspections in Fiscal Year 2007, 160 percent higher
than were conducted in 2005, and to date, we have conducted
over 140,000 of these inspections. And especially noteworthy is
the increasing number of bus inspections, even though the
SAFETEA-LU reauthorization bill instituted a prohibition of en
route bus inspections unless an egregious safety defect exists.
We continue to recognize the importance of strong safety
data. Therefore, we are working to establish a bus fire
database that will give us more information about bus fires and
allow us to better have a handle on what is going on in the
industry regarding these tragic fires.
The agency established a goal to complete new entrant
safety audits for motor carriers within 9 months, rather than
the 18 months as required by statute. Rather than taking 9
months, on average we are getting to the audits of these
companies within 5 months.
FMCSA has responded to a number of NTSB motorcoach
recommendations. Several of these relate to the medical
certification requirements final rule and national registry of
certified medical examiners notice of proposed rulemaking
currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget,
and we will plan to publish these rules later this year.
FMCSA partnered with the motorcoach industry to develop and
distribute a booklet on motorcoach brake systems and safety
technologies. Recently we requested closure of three other
recommendations relating to the publishing of pre-trip safety
guidance and outreach materials.
Mr. Chairman, sadly the owner of the company involved in
the Sherman crash chose to ignore passenger safety by
disregarding the rules intended to protect them. Our agency is
dedicated to finding and stopping such operators before they
commit these atrocious acts.
I would be happy to respond to your questions. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hill follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. John Hill, Administrator,
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Chairman Lautenberg, Ranking Member Smith, and Members of the
Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me today to discuss the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) programs related to bus
operations. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss how FMCSA's
important programs improve bus safety and make the Nation's highways
safer. As recently announced by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters,
the total number of fatalities on the Nation's highways declined 3.9
percent in 2007 to the lowest level since 1994. For the bus industry,
2007 had the fewest fatal bus crashes since 2004, down 8.6 percent from
2006. The number of fatalities in bus crashes was also 4.5 percent
lower than in 2006. The Agency recognizes, however, that every life
lost is one too many, and understands fully the risk of multiple
injuries and fatalities in a bus crash. As a result, we continue to
place a high priority on our passenger carrier programs.
The industry has seen many recent market changes. For example, the
economy and rising fuel prices have contributed to increased ridership
and new bus companies. FMCSA monitors the industry, remaining agile and
adjusting as needed to offset the risks that these changes introduce.
FMCSA remains dedicated to developing and implementing strong
safety programs to reduce crashes of buses and large trucks. Over the
past 8\1/2\ years, the Agency has implemented new regulations, grant
requirements, processes, and penalties to make the industry safer.
During my tenure as Administrator, I have redirected FMCSA's resources
and engaged our State partners actively to complete more compliance
reviews (CRs), inspections, and nationwide strike forces. Within the
last year, I visited the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration's (NHTSA) Vehicle Research and Test Center in East
Liberty, Ohio, and witnessed a motorcoach crash test to gain additional
information and insight into passenger carrier safety issues.
Additionally, I rode two curbside buses to New York, NY, from
Washington, D.C., to understand how this emerging business model
employs safety practices in its operations.
Sherman, Texas Motorcoach Crash
Seeing the devastation of the August 8, 2008, crash in Sherman,
Texas, is a solemn reminder of the need for rigorous oversight and
strong penalties for unsafe carriers. Due to the alleged unsafe
behavior of the motor carrier involved, 17 people on a religious
pilgrimage lost their lives and 15 others were injured. The families
and communities of these victims will suffer the repercussions for a
The carrier involved in this tragic crash, Iguala Busmex, did not
have proper authority to operate and was actually a reincarnation of
another unsafe motorcoach company, Angel Tours, Inc., that FMCSA had
placed out-of-service in June after declaring it unsatisfactory and
unfit to operate. Both of these companies were owned and operated by
the same individual, Angel De La Torre. Although the National
Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB's) investigation is proceeding,
FMCSA discovered at least three deficiencies with Iguala Busmex when
the crash occurred, in addition to its not having operating authority.
First, the tire that deflated was a recap/retread tire that had
been installed on the right front steering axle, in violation of the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. While such tires are
permitted on axles at the rear of a bus, having them on a front or
steering axle is prohibited by Federal regulations. Second, the carrier
did not ensure that the driver was certified as meeting our medical
standards. The driver had an expired medical certificate in his
possession at the time of the crash. Third, the carrier was not
conducting preemployment drug testing.
Further, while investigating, FMCSA determined that the motor
carrier was operating motorcoaches that were being used by two
different motor carriers, Iguala Busmex, Inc. and Liberty Charters and
Tours. Following the discovery of this information, FMCSA dispatched
FMCSA discovered that Angel De La Torre was involved in managing at
least some aspects of Liberty Charters and Tours. Based on these
findings, FMCSA issued an imminent hazard out-of-service order on
August 12 prohibiting Liberty Charters and Tours from using drivers or
vehicles that were under the control or employ of Angel Tours, Iguala
Busmex, or Angel De La Torre. The Agency issues imminent hazard out-of-
service orders when continued operation of the company increases
substantially the likelihood of serious injury or death.
The bus involved in the Sherman crash had been inspected as
recently as July 31, and did not have a retread tire at that time.
However, FMCSA's continuing investigations demonstrate the extent to
which some motor carriers go to defy laws and regulations. They
represent the most egregious carriers with which we must contend.
Fortunately, these carriers represent the minority of the industry.
Most of the 3,938 active interstate motorcoach carriers operating
33,250 vehicles operate properly and deliver their passengers safely.
Update on FMCSA's National Bus Safety Program
When I testified before your House colleagues in March 2007, I
explained that FMCSA's National Motorcoach Safety Program emphasizes
six areas: (1) increasing the number of motorcoach CRs; (2) ensuring
passenger carriers have a higher priority within FMCSA's CR
prioritization system, known as SafeStat; (3) establishing formal bus
inspection programs within all States; (4) improving the collection and
analysis of safety data; (5) reducing motorcoach fires; and (6)
expediting safety audits of new entrant passenger carriers. Over the
past 14 months, FMCSA has made considerable progress in each of these
Motorcoach Compliance Reviews
In Fiscal Year 2005, FMCSA and its State partners completed CRs on
457 motorcoach companies. FMCSA increased this number to more than 600
in FY 2006. I am pleased to report that this was more than doubled in
2007 to 1,304. In FY 2008, the Agency has completed 1,257 motorcoach
CRs to date. FMCSA continues to adjust its resources and goals to reach
more motorcoach carriers. I would like to take this opportunity to
commend FMCSA's State partners and the Commercial Vehicle Safety
Alliance (CVSA), who have been instrumental in helping exceed these
Passenger Carrier Enhancements to the SafeStat System
Directly related to FMCSA's CR program is the Agency's modification
of the algorithm used in the SafeStat system. FMCSA and State
enforcement inspectors use the SafeStat system to identify high risk
motor carriers in need of Agency oversight. The Agency recognizes that
bus companies should receive the utmost program attention and
enforcement resources. As a result, FMCSA has revised its SafeStat CR
prioritization system to address the additional risks associated with
passenger transportation by applying more stringent safety standards
for passenger carriers. Under the revised system, FMCSA has identified
additional groups of passenger carriers as its highest priorities for
CRs. These groups include passenger carriers with less than
satisfactory ratings, those with operational data showing violations,
and passenger carriers that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years.
Prior to the implementation of this new algorithm, 101 passenger
carriers were on the prioritized CR list. Under the new system, FMCSA
will now be reviewing 889 passenger carriers on the priority list,
nearly double the number of passenger carrier CRs in FY 2005.
For the past two Fiscal Years, FMCSA's State partners have been
required to include a bus inspection program in their Commercial
Vehicle Safety Plan (CVSP) in order to receive funding under the Motor
Carrier Safety Assistance Program. As a result, 147,686 bus inspections
were completed in FY 2007, which is 160 percent higher than the 56,084
bus inspections conducted in FY 2005. In FY 2008, 140,448 inspections
have been conducted to date.
The FMCSA has continued to augment its program with bus strike
forces to focus attention on passenger carrier safety. The most recent
strike force was conducted August 4-16 and spanned all 50 states and
the District of Columbia. Federal and State personnel from numerous law
enforcement agencies participated in the strike force, completing
approximately 12,000 safety inspections on vehicles and drivers. As a
result, 1,200 buses were placed out of service.
Improved Safety Data
The results of these increased efforts remove unsafe drivers and
vehicles from the road and give the Agency additional data on passenger
carriers that can be used to further research, program initiatives, and
risk assessment on carriers and drivers.
FMCSA is currently completing a Bus Crash Causation Study. Based on
the data analysis to date, it appears that, like the Large Truck Crash
Causation Study (LTCCS) issued in November 2005, other vehicles and
drivers were responsible for the crashes in more than half of the cases
(20 out of 39). In addition, where the critical reason for the crash
was assigned to the bus driver, the crash was the result of driver
errors including inadequate surveillance, inattention, and following
too closely. Only four crashes were related to vehicle malfunctions. In
two cases, brakes failed and in the other two there were fires. The
Agency will continue its efforts to increase focus on both commercial
motor vehicle (CMV) and nonCMV drivers.
On July 24, 2007, FMCSA published a Federal Register notice to
advise that fires must be treated as crashes concerning reporting
requirements. Motor carriers must now include fires on their accident
register and law enforcement agencies should capture the information on
their State Accident Reporting System. The additional data from this
change improves significantly FMCSA's fire data collection and analysis
The FMCSA, through the Department's Volpe National Transportation
Systems Center, developed a national motorcoach fire database and
completed a fire safety analysis. This study reviewed more than 500
fire incidents over the last 10 years using information from FMCSA's
Motor Carrier Management Information System, the Department of Homeland
Security's National Fire Incident Reporting System, and individual
state accident reporting data. The study recommended focusing on
improving the effectiveness of State and Federal motorcoach inspection
practices to identify mechanical conditions that can cause fires. With
this information, FMCSA worked with the CVSA to change the out-of-
service criteria to include oil leaks in wheel hubs and frayed or
damaged wiring on bus electrical systems.
The FMCSA is expanding the original study to include newly
available fire information from 2004 to 2008. This will allow the
Agency to examine newer motorcoaches that may be equipped with
automatic fire detection and suppression systems and evaluate the
efficacy of such safety devices. Recently, FMCSA entered into a
partnership with NHTSA's Special Crash Investigation unit to evaluate
fire incidents on motorcoaches and conduct detailed engineering root
cause analysis. A team of NHTSA technical experts will travel to
motorcoach fires to perform an engineering analysis to determine
whether root cause engineering data can be obtained that will indicate
why the fire occurred and whether a primary contributing factor can be
New Entrant Passenger Carriers
As reported in July 2007, FMCSA established an internal goal to
complete the new entrant safety audits for passenger carriers within 9
months, rather than the 18 months provided in the originating statute.
In FY 2007, FMCSA completed 86.6 percent within 9 months and 94.7
percent within 18 months. For FY 2008, to date, the percentages are
83.5 percent and 94.8 percent, respectively. On average, a safety audit
is conducted on a new motorcoach carrier within 4.5 months.
The Agency expects publication of the final rule on the New Entrant
Safety Assurance Process later this year. At present, the rule is in
the final stages of Departmental review. The notice of proposed
rulemaking published on December 21, 2006, recommended strengthening
the standards for all motor carriers and requiring verification and
education about the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) during the safety audit. Changes in this program will contribute
significantly to starting new carriers off right and will enable FMCSA
and its State partners to identify unsafe carriers and ensure the early
correction of unsafe practices.
Current and Future Authorities
While these six National Motorcoach Safety Program initiatives have
resulted in significant enhancements to our safety programs, FMCSA
continues to use its current authority and looks for additional
authority that would eliminate loopholes, identify more unsafe
carriers, and make the industry safer. Recently, FMCSA received
additional direction through the Over-the-Road Bus Transportation
Accessibility Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-291), signed into law by President
Bush on July 30. This legislation clarifies the Agency's role in
considering ADA compliance before operating authority is granted and
authorizes the Agency to revoke operating authority based on willful
noncompliance with DOT's ADA regulations.
I am pleased to report that FMCSA met the requirement of the Act to
``take necessary actions to implement the changes required'' within 30
days. To that end, the Agency has provided staff with the needed
procedures and direction for implementation. In addition, we have
initiated the development of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with
the Department of Justice, as required by the statute, and are on
target to complete the MOU by the 6-month statutory deadline.
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity
Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established the Motor Carrier
Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to provide advice and recommendations
on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations.
The MCSAC recently recommended several reauthorization proposals to the
Agency for consideration. We are now reviewing the advisory committee's
recommendations. The Agency's next reauthorization will be critical in
providing the tools and resources needed by FMCSA to create an even
more robust safety program.
To ensure that noncompliant carriers are not attempting to evade
detection by creating new motor carriers, the Agency has implemented a
vetting process for new passenger carrier operating authority
applicants. This process compares available applicant information to
existing carrier information. FMCSA's algorithm identifies common
characteristics such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail
addresses, vehicles, drivers, and insurance policy information. If
similarities are detected, FMCSA investigates further.
The application is vetted by FMCSA and with the appropriate State
agency. If an affiliation with a carrier with an unsafe record is
detected through this vetting process, the applicant is required to
provide additional documentation. FMCSA will deny authority to any
unsafe carrier attempting to reestablish itself as a new carrier.
The FMCSA continues to monitor other areas of concern including
driver health, driver fatigue, and the impacts of non-CMVs around large
trucks and buses. In April 2008, FMCSA began a 24-month research study
specific to motorcoach driver fatigue. This research will gather
empirical data on motorcoach driver schedules to help bus companies
better manage fatigue in their driver operations.
The Agency continues to focus on driver information available
through our existing systems. FMCSA developed the Driver Information
Resource (DIR) in response to SAFETEA-LU. The DIR is a Web-based tool
that allows a user to search by driver for a driver's crash and
inspection history, regardless of a driver's employment history. FMCSA
and State enforcement staff continue to use this tool to access driver-
specific data. The Agency expects to make this information available to
the motor carrier industry as a part of the preemployment verification
process. Approved companies would distribute the information to
inquiring motor carriers with the driver's approval. The system is to
be accessible by motor carriers in 2009. This will result in bus and
truck companies hiring safer drivers or risking consequences for
employing unsafe operators.
Additionally, FMCSA's Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010)
program will address driver-specific issues. CSA 2010 will collect and
manage driver specific data and target drivers and carriers based on
FMCSA has been responding to a number of NTSB motorcoach
recommendations. Several of these recommendations relate to two FMCSA
rulemakings: ``Medical Certification Requirements as Part of the
Commercial Driver's License'' and ``National Registry of Certified
Medical Examiners.'' The Medical Certification final rule and the
National Registry notice of proposed rulemaking are currently under
review. We anticipate publishing both of these rules later this fall.
In addition, in response to a NTSB recommendation, FMCSA partnered
with the American Bus Association (ABA), the United Motorcoach
Association (UMA), and the CVSA to develop and distribute a booklet
entitled, ``Motorcoach Brake Systems and Safety Technologies.'' More
than 4,000 copies were distributed and the document is accessible on
the FMCSA website.
FMCSA has developed a new algorithm to change the prioritization of
motorcoaches in the SafeStat system. As a result, FMCSA has requested
that the NTSB close the related recommendation.
Additionally, FMCSA recently requested closure of three other
recommendations related to the publishing of pre-trip safety guidance
in the Federal Register and development and publication of outreach
materials. 30,000 brochures, 20,000 audio CDs, and 6,000 posters have
been distributed. In addition, these materials were posted on FMCSA's
website. The Agency continues to target non-traditional motorcoach
users and operators, such as church and school groups.
Finally, another recommendation relates to developing a national
bus fire database and studying the causes, frequency, and severity of
bus and motorcoach fires. As I explained earlier in my statement, FMCSA
has engaged the Volpe Center and NHTSA to provide assistance in this
It must be noted that FMCSA could not have made these
accomplishments without our partnerships with other DOT agencies such
as NHTSA and the Federal Transit Administration, other Federal
agencies, State and local law enforcement agencies, and organizations
such as the American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach
Association, and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. These
critically important relationships help to bring issues to light and
strengthen the industry.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to reiterate FMCSA's dedication to bus
safety. Our agency works each day to ensure that every passenger
arrives home safely to loved ones from every trip. In the history of
CMV enforcement and regulatory oversight, we now have more inspections,
more CRs and timelier new entrant audits, and greater outreach and
education than ever. In advance of the Sherman tragedy, FMCSA took
strong steps to ensure the safety of our highways. We identified a
carrier as unsafe, conducted a thorough investigation, and determined
the carrier to be unfit, placing it out of service. Sadly, the owner of
the company that had been placed out of service chose to ignore his
passengers' safety by disregarding the rules intended to protect them.
This willful negligence has no place in the future of American
transportation. Our agency is dedicated to finding and stopping such
operators before they commit these atrocious acts.
While we are seeing a reduction in the total number of fatalities
each year, FMCSA recognizes that much work remains. Please be assured
of my continued personal commitment to reducing these fatalities
further and making our nation's highways even safer. Thank you for the
opportunity to testify before you today about this important issue. I
also commend the Subcommittee for continuing to focus on bus safety to
increase protection of the American people. I would be happy to respond
to any questions you may have.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much.
Now Mr. Rosenker.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARK V. ROSENKER, ACTING CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL
TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
Mr. Rosenker. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Chairman
Lautenberg, Senator Hutchison, my name is Mark Rosenker, and I
am the Acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety
Board. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for
inviting me to testify today on motorcoach safety.
As you know, the Safety Board is charged with investigating
accidents in all modes of transportation, including highways.
We determine the probable cause and make recommendations to
prevent similar accidents from happening again.
Motorcoach travel is one of the safest modes of
transportation. However, when accidents do occur, they
typically involve substantial numbers of people traveling in a
single vehicle, and it is often carrying students or elderly
persons who rely on motorcoach travel and have placed their
safety in the hands of a professional motorcoach operator.
Therefore, the public demands that motorcoaches meet the
highest level of safety.
Today I would like to discuss three areas where
improvements can be made to make motorcoach travel even safer.
They involve motorcoach vehicle improvements, oversight
improvements, and technology improvements.
First, I would like to talk about vehicle improvements. For
decades, the Safety Board has been concerned with motorcoach
occupant protection and the fatalities and injuries caused when
passengers are thrown from their seats or ejected. In fact, we
just revisited this issue in the Bluffton University accident
in Atlanta where 12 occupants were ejected from the motorcoach.
The Board's recommendations to NHTSA included: develop
standards for a motorcoach occupant protection system that
protects passengers in all crash scenarios; revise window
glazing requirements to prevent occupant ejections, yet still
allows passenger egress; and make motorcoach roofs stronger.
These improvements would go a long way in protecting passengers
during a crash.
Motor coach fires are also a concern. Even though deaths
and injuries have historically been rare, the Board discovered
after the tragic motorcoach fire near Dallas, Texas in 2005
that the consequences can be devastating. As a result, the
Board made recommendations to NHTSA to require enhanced fire
protection of fuel systems and fire-hardened materials in
motorcoaches; develop fire detection systems; and establish
acceptable passenger egress times for motorcoaches.
The Board has asked NHTSA to require that motorcoaches be
equipped with event data recorders which can be used to collect
crash data and evaluate crash pulses and occupant protection
issues when crashes do occur. The Board recently reiterated
this recommendation in July, following the Bluffton accident.
For decades, the Board has been concerned with the safety
provided by motorcoach operators and the oversight provided by
local, State, and Federal agencies. We have made the following
recommendations to FMCSA.
Elevate the importance of driver and vehicle safety rule
violations in order to take more unfit carriers off the road.
This recommendation was originally made in 1999 and most
recently reiterated following the motorcoach fire near Dallas.
Implement our eight recommendations that call for a
comprehensive medical oversight program for commercial drivers.
This recommendation was originally made in 2001, following the
tragic Mother's Day crash in New Orleans and was placed on the
Board's most wanted list in 2003.
Implement technology that would prevent commercial drivers
from falsifying their log books and make it easier for motor
carriers, law enforcement agencies, and the FMCSA to monitor
drivers' hours by requiring electronic on-board recorders for
hours of service. This device would go a long way in helping
prevent fatigue-related accidents.
And finally, prohibit cellular telephone use by commercial
drivers on motorcoaches.
The Board also believes that developing and installing new
technologies such as adaptive cruise control, collision warning
systems, active braking and electronic stability control hold
great promise in reducing accidents. The Board has made
recommendations to NHTSA to study and implement these and other
technologies and has recently added this topic to the Board's
most wanted list.
In summary, the NTSB believes that although the motorcoach
is still one of the safest modes of transportation, there are
many, many improvements that can be made to make it even safer.
Mr. Chairman, I would be available to respond to any
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rosenker follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Mark V. Rosenker, Acting Chairman,
National Transportation Safety Board
Good morning Chairman Lautenberg, Ranking Member Smith, and Members
of the Subcommittee. My name is Mark Rosenker, Acting Chairman of the
National Transportation Safety Board. I would like to take this
opportunity to thank you and the Members of the Subcommittee for
inviting me to testify today on motorcoach safety and for your
continued interest in furthering the safety of our Nation's highways.
As you know, the Safety Board is charged with investigating
accidents in all the modes of transportation, including highways, to
determine their probable cause, and make recommendations to prevent
similar accidents from happening again. Over the years the Board has
done important work in virtually all aspects of highway safety
including highway or vehicle design; roadway environment; occupant
protection; driver performance; driver training; emergency response;
roadway, bridge, and tunnel construction; and oversight by regulatory
agencies at the local, state, and Federal levels.
Today, I would like to discuss the Safety Board recommendations in
areas regarding several important issues that the Board believes will
make a difference in motorcoach safety.
As you know, intercity motorcoach travel is one of the safest modes
of transportation, with approximately 17 occupant fatalities in an
average year. It is also one of the most popular forms of travel--
transporting more passengers than either commercial air or rail travel,
according to industry estimates. However, when accidents occur, they
typically involve substantial numbers of people traveling in a single
These passengers are often students or elderly persons who rely on
motorcoach travel and have placed their safety in the hands of a
professional motorcoach operator. That factor demands that motorcoaches
meet the highest level of safety.
When tragic accidents occur, the public turns to the Safety Board
for answers. Because the Board ultimately determines the probable cause
and makes safety recommendations to prevent future accidents from
occurring again, the public's confidence is reassured.
My discussions today include 3 areas: motorcoach vehicle
improvements, motorcoach oversight improvements, and motorcoach
Motorcoach Vehicle Improvements
For decades, the Safety Board has been concerned with injury
causation mechanisms with regard to the occupants in motorcoach
accidents. These areas include motorcoach passenger protection, event
data recorders, and motorcoach fire protection.
Motorcoach Passenger Protection
One of the primary causes of passenger injury in motorcoach buses
is passengers being thrown from their seats. An accident and the
overall injury risk to occupants can be significantly reduced during an
accident by keeping occupants in the seating compartment throughout the
collision. In addition, we found that equipping motorcoach side windows
with advanced glazing may decrease the number of ejections of
unrestrained passengers and decrease the risk of serious injuries to
restrained passengers during motorcoach accidents.
In the Bluffton University accident in Atlanta, 7 of the 35
motorcoach occupants were killed. Twelve occupants were ejected from
the motorcoach and 2 more occupants were partially ejected.
From 2000 through 2006, 43 motorcoach accidents occurred in which
at least one occupant was fatally injured. In these motorcoach
accidents, which resulted in 122 total fatalities, 41 occupants were
partially or fully ejected from the motorcoach. In 15 of the 43
accidents, the motorcoach rolled over and 38 ejected fatalities
occurred during the rollovers.
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) contain 22
crashworthiness standards. Most of these standards exempt motorcoaches
with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 pounds, and no Federal
regulations require that motorcoaches in the United States be equipped
with an occupant protection system. Although motorcoaches must comply
with both FMVSS 217, which establishes minimum requirements for
motorcoach window retention and release, and with FMVSS 302, which
establish standards for the flammability of interior materials, they do
not have to comply with the host of other FMVSS occupant protection
standards that apply to school buses and passenger cars.
A well-designed vehicle will manage the energy of a crash through
its structure and minimize that energy transfer to passengers through
an occupant protection system (compartmentalization), which functions
to restrain the passengers within the seating compartment throughout
the accident sequence and minimize the risk of injury. One example of
compartmentalization has been studied, tested, and required in school
buses but not in motorcoaches.
Between 1968 and 1973, the Safety Board issued a series of
recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on occupant
protection. Additionally, in 1999, the Safety Board published two
special investigation reports that addressed motorcoach occupant
protection. The recommendations included the following to NHTSA. The
first two were also added to the Board's Most Wanted List of
Transportation Safety Improvements (Most Wanted) in 2000:
In 2 years, develop performance standards for motorcoach
occupant protection systems that account for frontal impact
collisions, side impact collisions, and rollovers. H-99-47
Once pertinent standards have been developed for motorcoach
occupant protection systems, require newly manufactured
motorcoaches to have an occupant crash protection system that
meets the newly developed performance standards and restrains
passengers, including those in child safety restraint systems,
within the seating compartment throughout the accident sequence
for all accident scenarios. H-99-48
Expand your research on current advanced glazing to include
its applicability to motorcoach occupant ejection prevention,
and revise window-glazing requirements for newly manufactured
motorcoaches based on the results of this research. H-99-49
NHTSA's initial response indicated that work had begun to develop a
research plan to accomplish these recommendations. Two years later,
NHTSA reported forming the Bus Manufacturer's Council and in 2002, the
agency held a public forum on motorcoach safety with Transport Canada.
In 2004, the Safety Board was informed that NHTSA was focusing on roof
crush and window retention technology to keep occupants in the vehicle
and had initiated a joint study with Transport Canada.
In 2001, these recommendations were reiterated following a 1999
motorcoach accident in New Orleans in which 22 occupants were killed.
Since 1998, the Safety Board has investigated 33 more motorcoach
crashes involving 255 ejections and 123 fatalities. The majority of
these rollover crashes clearly shows that passengers who remain in
their seating compartments sustain fewer injuries and that ejected
passengers are the most likely to be killed.
Unfortunately today, 9 years after the Safety Board concluded its
bus crashworthiness special investigation, no Federal regulations or
standards require that motorcoaches operated in the United States be
equipped with occupant protection systems. Consequently, these
motorcoach occupant protection recommendations were again reiterated in
the Bluffton University accident in Atlanta.
However, NHTSA is making some progress. In December 2007, NHTSA
performed a frontal motorcoach crash test and in February 2008, they
performed two tests on motorcoach roof strength and occupant survivable
space by the MGA Research Corporation, under contract to NHTSA, both of
which were observed by Safety Board staff. The Board will carefully
follow the analysis of those test results.
Another critical aspect of surviving a motorcoach accident is the
ability of passengers to exit the vehicle in a timely manner. In the
Safety Board's 1999 special crashworthiness report, we found that the
emergency window exits need to be easily opened and that they need to
remain open during an emergency evacuation. Consequently, the Board
recommended that NHTSA:
revise the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217, ``Bus
Window Retention and Release,'' to require that other than
floor-level emergency exits can be easily opened and remain
open during an emergency evacuation when a motorcoach is
upright or at unusual attitudes (H-99-9).
This recommendation was added to the Most Wanted list in 2000.
Motorcoaches must be strong enough to retain adequate survivable
space for passengers during typical accident scenarios, and especially
important regarding roof strength during rollovers. The recommendation
to NHTSA in our 1999 special report was to develop performance
standards within 2 years for motorcoach roof strength that provide
maximum survival space for all seating positions and that take into
account current typical motorcoach window dimensions (H-99-50). This
recommendation was added to the Most Wanted list in 2000.
Finally, the Safety Board made recommendations to NHTSA as a result
of the motorcoach accident investigation in Wilmer, Texas. These
evaluate current emergency evacuation designs of
motorcoaches and buses by conducting simulation studies and
evacuation drills that take into account, at a minimum,
acceptable egress times for various post-accident environments,
including fire and smoke; unavailable exit situations; and the
current above-ground height and design of window exits to be
used in emergencies by all potential vehicle occupants (H-07-
require motorcoach operators to provide passengers with
pretrip safety information (H-99-8).
Some progress has been made on these recommendations. In 2002,
NHTSA met separately with motorcoach manufacturers and operators to
address the issue of bus window retention and release; however, no
research plan was agreed upon at those meetings. In the fall of 2004,
NHTSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Transport Canada to
carry out research in the areas of roof crush and window retention
technology, with a goal of keeping occupants in the vehicle, because
most motorcoach fatalities occur when passengers are ejected from the
vehicle. NHTSA's research shows that in most accidents, the bus only
rolls \1/4\ turn and comes to rest on its side; therefore installation
of roof exits to serve as an alternate to window exits as a means of
rapid emergency egress for bus passengers was also being examined.
On August 6, 2007, NHTSA issued their ``Approach to Motorcoach
Safety,'' which is a comprehensive review of motorcoach safety issues
and the course of action that NHTSA will pursue to address them. In the
course of its research, NHTSA will study its own regulations (such as
FMVSS 217) which establishes minimum requirements for bus window
retention and release to reduce the likelihood of passenger ejection in
crashes--as well as international standards to determine the best way
to proceed with the establishment of new requirements to better protect
Event Data Recorders
Since motorcoach accidents are relatively rare events and
motorcoach crash testing is prohibitively expensive, one way to collect
crash data, evaluate crash pulses, and occupant protection issues is to
equip motorcoaches with event data recorders. An event data recorder is
a device or function that records a vehicle's dynamic, time-series data
just before a crash (vehicle speed versus time) or during a crash
(change in velocity versus time). Intended for retrieval after the
crash event, EDR data can provide critical safety system performance
information. To enhance crash testing with real-world data, it is
important that data from motorcoach crashes be used for post-accident
analysis, forensics, and design evaluation. At a recent SAE
International symposium on highway EDRs, industry representatives
presented the status of standards work, current system operating
experience, and evidence that many operators currently use vehicle data
recorders to improve operational control, to support insurance rates
and claims, and to respond to litigation. The Board would like to see
these devices on all motorcoaches.
Although crash forces can sometimes be estimated by comparing the
accident vehicle's physical damage to instrumented crash test data,
this method is not always reliable--particularly when crash test data
are substantially limited as they are for motorcoaches, and when the
accident involves a barrier collision or a collision with a hard paved
surface. The ability to estimate crash pulses was also limited by the
fact that some surfaces of the motorcoach may have undergone multiple
As a result of its 1996 safety study on child restraint systems and
subsequent 1997 air bag forum, the Safety Board recommended that NHTSA
address the on-board recording of crash data. About that time, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory also recommended that NHTSA study the feasibility of
obtaining crash data for safety analysis by installing crash recorders
on vehicles. In response, NHTSA organized the EDR Working Group in
October 1998. In 1999, the Board held a symposium on transportation
recorders. Later that year, as a result of its special investigation on
bus crashworthiness, the Safety Board made the following two EDR-
related recommendations to NHTSA:
require that all school buses and motorcoaches manufactured
after January 1, 2003, be equipped with on-board recording
systems that record vehicle parameters, including, at minimum,
lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration, vertical
acceleration, heading, vehicle speed, engine speed, driver's
seat belt status, braking input, steering input, gear
selection, turn signal status (left/right), brake light status
(on/off), head/tail light status (on/off), passenger door
status (open/closed), emergency door status (open/closed),
hazard light status (on/off), brake system status (normal/
warning), and flashing red light status (on/off) (school buses
only). For those buses so equipped, the following should also
be recorded: status of additional seat belts, airbag deployment
criteria, airbag deployment time, and airbag deployment energy.
The on-board recording system should record data at a sampling
rate that is sufficient to define vehicle dynamics and should
be capable of preserving data in the event of a vehicle crash
or an electrical power loss. In addition, the on-board
recording system should be mounted to the bus body, not the
chassis, to ensure that the data necessary for defining bus
body motion are recorded (H-99-53), and
develop and implement, in cooperation with other government
agencies and industry, standards for on-board recording of bus
crash data that address, at a minimum, parameters to be
recorded, data sampling rates, duration of recording, interface
configurations, data storage format, incorporation of fleet
management tools, fluid immersion survivability, impact shock
survivability, crush and penetration survivability, fire
survivability, independent power supply, and ability to
accommodate future requirements and technological advances (H-
In October 2000, NHTSA organized the Truck and Bus Event Data
Recorder Working Group to focus on data elements, survivability, and
event definitions related to trucks, school buses, and motorcoaches.
The group's results and findings were published in May 2002. In 2004,
the NCHRP completed a project that examined current U.S. and
international methods and practices for the collection, retrieval,
archiving, and analysis of EDR data for roadside and vehicle safety.
Both the IEEE and SAE have published voluntary industry motor vehicle
EDR standards. A second SAE standards committee, J2728--Commercial
Vehicle Event Data Recorders--is specifically addressing data elements
for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Industry initiatives in standards
development include the American Trucking Association's Technology and
Maintenance Council's publication of a recommended practice to define
the collection of event-related data on board commercial vehicles. The
recommended practice outlines data elements, storage methodology, and
the retrieval approach for event data recording on commercial vehicles.
In the meantime, the FMCSA's ``Commercial Vehicle Safety Technology
Diagnostics and Performance Enhancement Program'' (also known as the
``CV Sensor Study'') has worked to define driver and vehicle assistance
products and systems and, in particular, advanced sensor and signal
processors in trucks and tractor-trailers, with an emphasis on on-board
diagnostic and improved safety-related products. The program involves
developing EDR requirements for the analysis of accident data from the
FMCSA's Large Truck Crash Causation Study, with the goal of developing
EDR functional specifications for both complete accident reconstruction
and crash analyses. To date, this project has developed requirements
for EDR components, hardware, software, sensors, and data bases and has
completed a cost-effectiveness analysis.
In recent years, NHTSA has made progress in developing EDR data
standards for light vehicles, which include passenger cars,
multipurpose passenger vehicles, light trucks, and vans with a gross
vehicle weight rating of 3,855 kilograms (8,500 pounds) or less. In
August 2006, NHTSA published a final rule that standardizes the
information EDRs collect, but was amended in January 14, 2008, in
response to numerous petitions for reconsideration. Based on this
revised rule, compliance dates have been changed to September 1, 2012,
for most light vehicles and to September 1, 2013, for vehicles
manufactured in two or more stages. The new rule, however, does not
address vehicles over 8,500 pounds and thus would not apply to buses or
In its August 2007 ``Approach to Motorcoach Safety,'' NHTSA
included a discussion of EDRs, stating that the agency has recently
defined mandatory data elements for the voluntary installation of EDRs
in light passenger vehicles. However, crash characteristics and
relevant measurements for motorcoaches are different, as supported by
the 2001 NHTSA EDR Working Group final report's ``Summary of
The EDR Working Group's final report also noted the following:
EDRs can improve highway safety for all vehicle classes by
providing more accurate data for accident reconstructions, and
U.S. and European studies have shown that the number and
severity of crashes is reduced when drivers know that an on-
board EDR is in operation.
However, NHTSA's ``Approach to Motorcoach Safety'' also makes the
seemingly contradictory statement that Safety Recommendations H-99-53
and -54 concerning EDRs do not specifically relate to changes that
would have a direct or quantifiable safety benefit for motorcoach
occupants. The Safety Board believes the lack of useful event data
associated with accident motorcoaches represents a missed opportunity
to better understand crash forces, ejection dynamics, and
crashworthiness. The Board concludes that event data recorders would
provide the accurate and detailed event data necessary to better
understand crash causation and to establish design requirements for
motorcoach crashworthiness and occupant protection systems. The need
for such information is particularly significant as EDRs become more
widely used in the truck and transit industry, as evidenced at the
September 2007 EDR symposium sponsored by SAE. During the symposium,
representatives from industry noted that EDR applications are being
more widely used for motor carrier analysis of accidents and to support
more accurate insurance underwriting and risk analysis.
Also in its ``Approach to Motorcoach Safety,'' NHTSA states ``Upon
completion of SAE J2728, consideration of a requirement for heavy
vehicle EDR installation into motorcoaches would be appropriate.''
The Safety Board recognizes NHTSA's progress in developing EDR
standards for light vehicles. Establishing EDR performance standards
for motorcoaches and buses is necessary for the timely and efficient
implementation of EDRs, which will provide the data needed to develop
effective occupant protection systems. The Board urges NHTSA to
actively push to complete standards work and require EDRs on all new
motorcoaches. As a result, in July of 2008 the Board reiterated Safety
Recommendations H-99-53 and -54 in its report on the Bluffton
University accident in Atlanta.
Motorcoach Fire Protection
On September 23, 2005, a fire engulfed a motorcoach carrying
elderly evacuees away from the predicted path of Hurricane Rita near
Dallas, Texas. The 44 passengers were from an assisted-living facility
in Bellaire, Texas; many needed to be carried or assisted onto the
motorcoach by firefighters or nursing staff, and required almost 2
hours to board. When the fire occurred, 23 elderly passengers were
unable to escape the blaze and perished. I would like to note that this
accident involved very unusual circumstances, and many of the decisions
to evacuate and the means to evacuate were made in the context of the
devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina that occurred just 1 month
Fires on motorcoaches are not an unusual occurrence. In fact, some
industry experts estimate that there is close to one motorcoach fire
per day. However, to date, injuries and fatalities related to
motorcoach fires are an extremely rare event. Still, this accident
shows the potential for catastrophe when passengers are unable to exit
a burning motorcoach quickly.
As a result of its investigation, the NTSB made the following
NHTSA should develop a standard to provide enhanced fire
protection of the fuel systems in areas of the motorcoaches and
buses where the system may be exposed to the effects of a fire.
In addition we asked that fire-hardened materials be used in
areas, such as those around wheel wells, to limit the potential
for flame spread into motorcoach or bus passenger compartments.
In the interim, while standards are being developed, we asked
the motorcoach manufacturers to use currently available
materials and designs for fuel system components that are known
to provide fire protection for the system,
Since wheel well fires are so difficult to extinguish, we
asked that NHTSA develop detection systems to monitor the
temperature of wheel well compartments in motorcoaches and
buses to provide early warning of malfunctions that could lead
to fires so that passengers might have time to escape, and
FMCSA continues to gather and evaluate information on the
causes, frequency, and severity of bus and motorcoach fires,
and conduct ongoing analysis of the fire data to measure the
effectiveness of the fire prevention and mitigation techniques
identified and instituted as a result of the Volpe National
Transportation Systems Center fire safety analysis study.
Motorcoach Oversight Improvements
For decades the Board has been concerned with the safety of
motorcoach operators and the oversight provided by local, state, and
Federal agencies. These areas include:
Oversight of the Compliance Review Process,
Oversight of Driver Medical Conditions,
Electronic Onboard Recorders for Hours of Service (fatigue),
Cell Phone Use by Bus Drivers.
Oversight of the Compliance Review Process
The Wilmer, Texas motorcoach fire is an illustration of the
potential consequences of poor oversight of motorcoach operations,
especially concerning the vehicle. The fire in this accident would not
have occurred had the motorcoach been properly maintained.
The Safety Board determined that the cause of the fire was
insufficient lubrication in the right-side tag axle wheel bearing
assembly of the motorcoach, which resulted in increased temperatures
and subsequent failed wheel bearings. The high temperatures resulting
from the friction led to the ignition of the tire and a catastrophic
fire. This occurred because the motorcoach operator, Global Limo, Inc.,
failed to maintain their vehicles and FMCSA failed to provide proper
oversight of the motor carrier through its compliance review process.
Unfortunately, FMCSA is only able to conduct compliance reviews for
a small fraction of the almost 911,000 motor carriers in this country.
However, in this particular accident, numerous driver and vehicle
safety violations were uncovered in a review performed by the Texas
Department of Public Safety (DPS) in April 2002. At the time, the Texas
DPS had no authority to force Global to cease operations. In February
2004, FMCSA conducted a compliance review of Global in which it found
similar violations pertaining to drivers and vehicles. However, FMCSA
rated Global as ``satisfactory.'' Nineteen months later, after the bus
fire near Dallas, FMCSA went back to Global and conducted another
compliance review in September 2005. In this review, FMCSA found many
of the same violations as in its previous compliance review; however,
this time FMCSA gave Global a safety rating of ``unsatisfactory'' and
declared that Global's operations created an ``imminent hazard'' to
public safety. FMCSA issued an order for Global to cease operations.
Concerned that motor carriers with significant regulatory
violations for drivers and vehicles are still receiving satisfactory
ratings, the Safety Board once more focused on Federal standards for
determining the safety fitness of carriers. As we have done in several
accident investigations over the past 8 years, the Board again
concluded that the current FMCSA compliance review process does not
effectively identify unsafe motor carriers and prevent them from
operating, especially when violations are found in the areas of driver
and vehicle safety. As a result, we reiterated our long-standing
recommendation to FMCSA to change the safety fitness rating methodology
so that adverse vehicle or driver performance-based data alone are
sufficient to result in an overall unsatisfactory rating for a carrier
(H-99-6). This recommendation was added to the Board's Most Wanted list
The Safety Board originally issued this recommendation in 1999 in a
Special Study on Selective Motorcoach Issues. We reiterated the
recommendation in 2002 in our Mountainburg, Arkansas truck/school bus
accident report and again in 2007. Our goal is to prevent motor
carriers from putting vehicles with mechanical problems on the road and
unqualified drivers behind the wheel.
The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 directed the Department of
Transportation (DOT) to establish a procedure to determine how safely
motor carriers operate. Currently, the DOT, through the FMCSA, uses a
system for determining how safely a motor carrier operates that does
not place sufficient emphasis on driver or vehicle qualifications.
Motor carriers are given safety ratings based on compliance reviews
conducted by the FMCSA. Carriers are rated on six safety fitness
1. General--including financial responsibility, insurance
coverage, drug and alcohol programs,
2. Driver--including qualifications and training,
3. Operations--including management controls, scheduling
practices, allowing violations of rules, false reports, failing
to maintain records,
4. Vehicle--including maintenance,
5. Hazardous materials--including failure to follow
6. Accident rate.
A motor carrier can receive an unsatisfactory overall rating if two
elements are rated unsatisfactory. An overall unsatisfactory rating can
lead to a carrier being ordered to cease operations.
The Safety Board's investigations have demonstrated that the two
most important factors in safe motor carrier operations are the
operational condition of the vehicles and the performance of the
drivers who drive them. The Board believes that if the carrier receives
an adverse rating (conditional or unsatisfactory) for either the
vehicle or driver factor, the overall rating should be unsatisfactory.
Since this recommendation was originally issued and later reiterated in
two accident reports, the FMCSA has planned or carried out a variety of
efforts to address our concerns. However, the same system is still in
place and the recommendation has not yet been satisfied.
For the safety of all highway users, the Safety Board believes that
a motor carrier that does not ensure either the safe operation of its
vehicles or drivers should receive an overall unsatisfactory safety
In June 2007, the FMCSA briefed the Safety Board on their
``Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 Initiative'' which they
indicated would include a complete evaluation of the compliance review
process leading to the development of a new performance-based
operational model for determining motor carrier safety, emphasizing
preventative measures and early detection for unsafe driver and carrier
conditions. Under CSA 2010, the FMCSA plans to decouple the safety
fitness rating from the compliance review. They have started the
process of developing a new safety fitness rating methodology that
would be based on an objective measure of a driver's or carrier's
safety performance data. These safety ratings would be issued to all
drivers and carriers. FMCSA began pilot testing the new rating system
The Safety Board believes FMCSA's current efforts represent a
comprehensive review of the process of determining the safety of
commercial motor carriers. Still, the Board continues to monitor
FMCSA's actions and is concerned that accidents continue to occur
involving motor carriers with poor oversight of their drivers and
vehicles. Recognizing the importance of this issue to motor carrier
safety, the Board added this recommendation to the Most Wanted list in
Related to this issue is the fact that, although FMCSA collects
data on numerous safety violations when it conducts compliance reviews
of motor carriers, approximately 85 percent of those violations are not
included in the calculations of the motor carriers' rating. By not
recognizing these violations in its calculations, FMCSA is allowing
potentially unsafe carriers to continue to operate without consequence.
Therefore the Safety Board recommended that FMCSA:
issue an Interim Rule to include all Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Regulations in the current compliance review process so
that all violations of regulations are reflected in the
calculation of a carrier's final rating (H-07-03) and
revise the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to
prohibit a commercial vehicle from operating with wheel seal or
other hub lubrication leaks (H-07-02).
Oversight of Driver Medical Conditions
On May 9, 1999, on Mother's Day in New Orleans, a commercial driver
lost consciousness while driving a motorcoach on an interstate highway,
left the roadway, and crashed into an embankment, killing 22
passengers, and seriously injuring the driver and 15 additional
passengers. The driver was found to have had multiple known serious
medical conditions, including kidney failure and congestive heart
failure and was receiving intravenous therapy for 3-4 hours a day, 6
days a week.
The Safety Board has investigated many other accidents involving
commercial drivers with serious preexisting medical conditions that had
not been adequately evaluated. These include:
a nearly blind school bus driver in Montana who apparently
did not see an oncoming train that struck the bus and killed 2
a New York City transit bus driver with a seizure history
who experienced a seizure while driving the bus, seriously
injuring a cyclist and killing a pedestrian,
a tractor-trailer driver with unevaluated sleep apnea and
untreated thyroid disease who ran over and killed a Tennessee
State Trooper driving in his highway patrol vehicle with lights
an alcohol-dependent tractor-trailer driver whose excessive
speed resulted in a load breaking free and striking a school
activity bus in North Carolina, killing the school bus driver
and a child.
It is unusual in our accident investigations to find a commercial
driver for whom there are not at least some questions regarding medical
certification. This is not to say that a driver's conditions always
cause the accident, but finding these undocumented and unevaluated
conditions in commercial drivers is concerning and often alarming. In
many cases, these conditions are manageable if they are appropriately
evaluated, treated, and monitored. Unfortunately, for a variety of
reasons, no such evaluation, treatment, or monitoring occurred in many
of the cases we investigated.
As a result of observing serious deficiencies in the oversight of
commercial driver medical certification in several of our
investigations including the New Orleans accident, the Safety Board
issued recommendations to the FMCSA in 2001 to develop a comprehensive
medical oversight program for interstate commercial drivers. The Board
suggested that such a program include qualified and properly educated
examiners, updated and available regulatory and non-regulatory
guidance, review and tracking of medical exams, improved enforcement of
certification requirements, and appropriate mechanisms for reporting
unfit drivers. The Board's recommendations specify a comprehensive
oversight program, because we feel that only by addressing this issue
in a systematic fashion can a truly effective program of oversight be
developed. A piecemeal approach to the problem may result in gaping
deficiencies that will continue to permit unqualified drivers to
operate on the Nation's highways. The specific recommendations are as
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: individuals performing medical examinations
for drivers are qualified to do so and are educated about
occupational issues for drivers (H-01-17),
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: a tracking mechanism is established that
ensures that every prior application by an individual for
medical certification is recorded and reviewed (H-01-18),
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: medical certification regulations are updated
periodically to permit trained examiners to clearly determine
whether drivers with common medical conditions should be issued
a medical certificate (H-01-19),
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: individuals performing examinations have
specific guidance and a readily identifiable source of
information for questions on such examinations (H-01-20),
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: the review process prevents, or identifies
and corrects, the inappropriate issuance of medical
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: enforcement authorities can identify invalid
medical certification during safety inspections and routine
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contain the following
program elements: enforcement authorities can prevent an
uncertified driver from driving until an appropriate medical
examination takes place (H-01-23), and
develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers that contains the following
program elements: mechanisms for reporting medical conditions
to the medical certification and reviewing authority and for
evaluating these conditions between medical certification exams
are in place; individuals, health care providers, and employers
are aware of these mechanisms (H-01-24).
In 2003, because of the critical importance of this issue and the
lack of substantive progress on the recommendations, this issue was
placed on the Safety Board's Most Wanted list. Although the FMCSA has
put in place a Medical Review Board and taken certain other preliminary
actions in response to Congressional mandates, there are still areas in
which absolutely no measurable progress has been made. In general, most
of our safety recommendations remain in an open--unacceptable response.
The FMCSA does seem to be making limited progress toward the type of
comprehensive oversight system envisioned by the Board, but it remains
questionable whether such a system will in fact be completely
Electronic Onboard Recorders for Hours of Service (Fatigue)
Paper logbooks offer many opportunities to play fast and loose with
the hours of service rules. In our investigations, we repeatedly find
that some drivers falsify their books or keep two sets of books and
some motor carriers do not closely monitor their drivers' compliance
with the rules. Recognizing this lack of accountability with paper
logbooks, the Safety Board has advocated the use of on-board data
recorders for the past 30 years.
In 1977, the Safety Board issued its first recommendation on the
use of on-board recording devices for hours of service compliance by
asking the FHA to explore the merits of tachographs on reducing
commercial vehicle accidents. Although the FHWA studied the issue, they
did not make any changes.
During the 1980s, the technology for on-board recorders for hours
of service improved dramatically and the European community began
requiring tachographs and other similar devices. In 1990, as part of a
study on heavy truck crashes, the Safety Board recommended that FHWA
and the states require the use of automated/tamper-proof on-board
recording devices. This recommendation was not acted upon by the FHWA.
In 1995, the Board reiterated this same recommendation to the FHWA and
the states. Both failed to act.
In 1998, the Safety Board tried a different approach, and made
recommendations directly to industry, asking them to equip their
commercial vehicle fleets with automated and tamper-proof on-board
recording devices. This recommendation was opposed by the industry.
In 2001, when the FMCSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on
hours of service of drivers, the Safety Board reiterated its position
that FMCSA strongly consider mandatory use of electronic onboard
recorders by all motor carriers. FMCSA did not incorporate this
suggestion into the NPRM. Finally, in 2007 the FMCSA issued a proposed
rulemaking on on-board recorders; however, there are 2 primary reasons
why the Board felt the NPRM fell short of its intended target.
First, the rule does not require EOBRs for hours of service for all
commercial vehicles, but rather promotes voluntary installation and
only requires installation for pattern violators. The Safety Board is
concerned that pattern violators will be very difficult to identify
without this technology and is convinced that the only effective way in
which on-board recorders can help stem hours of service violations is
to mandate their use by all operators.
Second, the Safety Board would like to see damage resistance and
data survivability included in the standards for recorder hardware.
In summary, fatigue-related accidents continue to plague our
Nations highways because, unlike alcohol or drugs, fatigue is extremely
difficult to detect. In fact, fatigue is probably the most
underreported causal factor in highway accidents. Electronic on-board
recorders for hours of service hold the potential to efficiently and
accurately collect and verify the hours of service for all drivers.
They will also establish the proper incentives and create a level
playing field for compliance with hours of service rules that will
ultimately make our highways safer for all drivers.
Cell Phone Use by Bus Drivers
On November 14, 2004, during daylight hours, a 44-year-old bus
driver was operating a motorcoach in the southbound right lane of the
George Washington Memorial Parkway in Alexandria, Virginia, taking 27
high school students and a chaperone to Mount Vernon. This vehicle was
the second one of a two-bus team. The motorcoach was traveling
approximately 46 miles per hour as it approached the stone arched
Alexandria Avenue overpass bridge, which passes over the GW Parkway.
The bus driver passed warning signs indicating that the right lane had
only a 10-foot, 2-inch clearance, while the center lane had a 13-foot
4-inch clearance. The bus was 12 feet tall. The lead bus moved into the
center lane, but the accident bus driver remained in the right lane and
drove the bus into the underside of the bridge. Witnesses and the bus
driver reported he was talking on a hands-free cellular telephone at
the time of the accident. Of the 27 student passengers, 10 received
minor injuries and 1 sustained serious injuries. The bus driver and
chaperone were uninjured. The bus's roof was destroyed.
The Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this
accident was the bus driver's failure to notice and respond to posted
low-clearance warning signs and to the bridge itself due to cognitive
distraction resulting from conversing on a hands-free cellular
telephone while driving.
As a result of this accident, the Safety Board made the following
FMCSA would publish regulations prohibiting cellular
telephone use by commercial driver's license holders with a
passenger-carrying or school bus endorsement, while driving
under the authority of that endorsement, except in emergencies,
the 50 states and the District of Columbia would enact
legislation to accomplish the same result at the state level,
the motorcoach associations, school bus organizations, and
unions would develop formal policies prohibiting cellular
telephone use by commercial driver's license holders with a
passenger-carrying or school bus endorsement, while driving
under the authority of that endorsement, except in emergencies,
a previously issued safety recommendation, reiterated to the
Safety Board, to 20 states to modify their traffic accident
investigation forms to include driver distraction codes,
including codes for interactive wireless communication device
Motorcoach Technology Improvements
The Safety Board believes that developing and installing new
technologies--such as adaptive cruise control and collision warning
systems in commercial trucks, buses, and passenger vehicles, will
substantially reduce accidents. This assessment comes from numerous
Board investigations. In a 2-year period, the Board investigated 9
rear-end collisions in which 20 people died and 181 were injured. Three
of the accidents involved buses and one accident involved 24 vehicles.
Common to all nine accidents was the rear-following vehicle driver's
degraded perception of traffic conditions ahead before striking other
vehicles. These accidents did not involve the use of drugs, alcohol, or
vehicle mechanical defects. The investigation showed that sun glare,
fog, smoke, fatigue, distractions, and work zones interfered with a
driver's ability to detect slow-moving or stopped traffic ahead and
resulted in rear-end collisions. According to the DOT, preliminary
analyses have shown that 1,836,000 police-reported crashes, or about 48
percent of accidents, could be prevented by rear-end or run-off-the-
road and lane change collision warning systems (CWS).
In 1995, the Board first made recommendations concerning collision-
warning systems as part of its Special Investigation of Collision
Warning Technology. The following recommendation was made to both the
DOT and to the Intelligent Transportation Society of America:
in cooperation with the Intelligent Transportation Society
of America, sponsor fleet testing of collision warning
technology through partnership projects with the commercial
carrier industry. Incorporate testing results into
demonstration and training programs to educate the potential
end-users of the systems (H-95-44).
In 1999, the Safety Board held a public hearing on Advanced Safety
Technologies for Commercial Vehicle Applications to discuss and
highlight new and emerging technologies such as collision warning
systems among others. In 2001, the Board issued the following
recommendation to NHTSA as part of its 2001 Special Investigation On
Technology To Prevention Rear-End Collisions.
complete rulemaking on adaptive cruise control and collision
warning system performance standards for new commercial
vehicles. At a minimum, these standards should address obstacle
detection distance, timing of alerts, and human factors
guidelines, such as the mode and type of warning (H-01-6).
In 2007 this recommendation was added to the Board's Most Wanted
In 2001, the DOT established an Intelligent Vehicle Initiative
(IVI)--the goal of which was to improve the safety and efficiency of
motor vehicle operations by reducing the probability of motor vehicle
crashes--as a major component of the Intelligent Transportation System
(ITS) program. As part of the IVI, NHTSA evaluated the performance of
CWS and adaptive cruise control (ACC) by participating in field
operational tests of vehicles equipped with advanced safety systems. In
May 2005, NHTSA released the results of its passenger vehicle testing,
Automotive Collision Avoidance System Field Operational Test Final
Program Report, showing potential to reduce rear-end crashes by 10
percent and reporting positive user reaction to the systems. The final
report on the commercial vehicle field-testing conducted for the DOT by
Battelle and Volvo Trucks North America, Inc., was released in January
2007. The preliminary findings of the report indicate that a combined
CWS and ACC bundled safety system account for a statistically
significant reduction in rear-end crashes through reduced exposure to
safety-critical driving scenarios.
NHTSA, along with the FHWA, the FMCSA, and RITA, appears to be
working consistently on this important technological safety issue. The
preliminary results of the testing on advanced safety systems are
encouraging, but rulemaking is needed to ensure uniformity of system
performance standards, such as obstacle detection, timing of alerts,
and human factors guidelines, on new passenger and commercial vehicles.
Additionally, the Safety Board has made recommendations on
electronic stability control to improve a vehicle's handling,
particularly at the limits where the driver might lose control of the
vehicle. In concert with ABS brakes, ESC senses when a vehicle is about
to slide or yaw, and applies brakes to the proper wheels to regain
control. The Board first made recommendations on this technology back
when it was called ``traction control'' following a 1997 accident in
Slinger, WI involving commercial vehicles operating under icy
conditions. Eight fatalities occurred when a truck lost control,
crossed a median and struck a van. In its report the Board made the
following recommendations to NHTSA:
work, together with FHWA, the American Trucking
Associations, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and
the Motor Freight Carrier Association to conduct laboratory and
truck fleet testing to assess the safety benefits of adding
traction control devices to anti-lock brake systems and report
your findings to the NTSB (H-98-015),
work, together with the FHWA, the American Trucking
Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and
the Motor Freight Carrier Association to encourage the trucking
industry to gain experience with traction control devices
through fleet tests (H-98-016).
To illustrate some successes the Safety Board has had in the
passenger car area concerning electronic stability control, the Board
made recommendations in its 2003 Largo, Maryland accident report for
NHTSA to expand its current evaluation of electronic stability control
systems and determine their potential for assisting drivers in
maintaining control of passenger cars, light trucks, sport utility
vehicles, and vans. Included in this evaluation was an accident data
analysis of electronic stability control-equipped vehicles in the U.S.
In April 2007, NHTSA announced that it would require ESC on all new
cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. by September 1, 2011.
Unfortunately, this rule only applies to passenger cars, multipurpose
vehicles, trucks, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of
10,000 pounds or less.
In summary, the Safety Board believes that, although motorcoach
travel is one of the safest modes of transportation, there are still
many improvements that can be made to make it even safer.
Mr. Chairman, this completes my statement, and I will be happy to
respond to any questions you may have.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you, Mr. Rosenker.
STATEMENT OF DAVID KELLY, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Chairman Lautenberg, Senator
Hutchison. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you
today to discuss the important issue of motorcoach safety.
Every death and serious injury that occurs on our roads is
a tragedy. Myself and all of the NHTSA employees who dedicate
our careers to saving lives share the same feelings of concern
and empathy for the individuals and families who have been
tragically affected by these crashes, especially when our most
valuable resource, children, are involved. We know that one
death is too many, and I extend my deepest condolences to each
of them. They also have our commitment that we will continue to
work to make sure fewer families will have to suffer their same
Over the past several years, NHTSA has been very focused in
our efforts to improve motorcoach safety. In April 2002, we
began a joint research program with Transport Canada that was
an outreach of a public hearing that we had, again with
Transport Canada, to look at window glazing. With input from
that meeting and from further study, we then moved on in 2006
to look at other occupant restraint and protection devices. We
reexamined our priorities and we also developed NHTSA's
approach for motorcoach safety. That was released in August
2007, and in that report, we focused our efforts on four
priorities: safety belts, roof strength, emergency evacuation,
and fire protection. I am pleased to say we are making progress
in each of those areas.
Just last December, we conducted our first-ever motorcoach
crash test. This test was a full frontal barrier crash at 30
miles per hour with 22 crash chest dummies aboard in a variety
of seat designs, seating configurations and restraint use. We
expect to have the analysis from this crash completed in
Additionally, we know that maintaining the integrity of
roof structure is important. We conducted tests on four
motorcoaches this February and are now assessing those results
to determine our next steps. Our plan is to make a decision on
roof strength next spring.
Further, when a crash does occur, getting passengers out
quickly must be a priority. We are currently conducting human
evacuation studies and simulations that take into consideration
various emergency exit scenarios and the special needs of young
and elderly passengers.
Finally, NHTSA has contracted with the National Institute
for Standards and Technology to conduct fire safety research.
This study is designed to review existing motorcoach
flammability standards and procedures and determine which might
be the most effective way to improve motorcoach safety.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your consideration and the
Subcommittee's ongoing efforts to improve highway safety. I
would be pleased to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kelly follows:]
Prepared Statement of David Kelly, Acting Administrator,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Mr. Chairman, I am David Kelly, Acting Administrator for the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I appreciate the
opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the important
issue of bus safety, and particularly motorcoach safety.
Every death and serious injury that occurs on our roads is a
tragedy. I share the same feelings of concern and empathy for the
individuals and families who have been tragically affected by these
crashes, especially when our most valuable resource, children, are
involved. I extend my deepest condolences to each of them.
Over the past several years, NHTSA has been very focused in our
efforts to improve motorcoach occupant protection. In April 2002, NHTSA
sponsored a joint public meeting with Transport Canada to hear the
views and comments from motorcoach manufacturers, operators, users, and
the public at large in order to be better informed of their specific
needs, and to help us determine what improvements in motorcoach
passenger crash protection standards were most warranted. With input
from that meeting, NHTSA and Transport Canada entered into a joint
program in April 2003 that was completed in September 2006.
The joint program with Transport Canada focused on improving
glazing and structural integrity on motorcoaches to prevent ejections
through the use of modified window glazing materials and bonding
techniques. There were several reasons the program was focused in this
1. Both Transport Canada and NHTSA had observed ejections
through windows in motorcoach crashes.
2. Several NTSB safety recommendations have been concerned with
glazing, window exits, structural integrity, roof strength, and
3. Focusing the joint program on this area seemed the best way
to address a broad array of the issues that had been raised by
NTSB, and improve occupant protection for all crash conditions.
The joint study concluded that considerably more effort would be
needed to develop performance requirements that would have a reasonable
possibility of being effective.
Completion of the joint study with Transport Canada coincided with
completion of an internal NHTSA review of emergency egress and
flammability requirements that are applicable to motorcoaches, as well
as the NTSB hearing on the tragic motorcoach fire that occurred in
Wilmer, TX during the evacuation for Hurricane Rita. The testimony from
the Wilmer NTSB hearing, in addition to the Transport Canada and
internal agency reviews, caused NHTSA to reexamine our priorities for
improving motorcoach safety. After completing a comprehensive review,
we developed NHTSA's Approach to Motorcoach Safety, which was made
public in August 2007. Our objectives in developing the safety plan
were to review motorcoach safety issues and develop approaches directed
to the areas that have the greatest potential for achieving improved
motorcoach safety most quickly. NHTSA is making significant progress in
our major research effort into passenger protection for motorcoaches in
crashes. Four strategies the agency is pursuing on a priority basis are
seat belts, roof strength, emergency evacuation, and fire safety
We have been conducting various crash and related tests to
determine the best strategies for enhancing passenger safety,
especially ways to prevent passenger ejections in crashes, such as
through the use of seat belts. In December 2007, the first motorcoach
crash test ever conducted by the agency was completed. The test was a
full frontal barrier crash at 30 miles per hour with 22 crash test
dummies aboard in a variety of seat designs, seating configurations,
and restraint usage. Using the crash information from this test,
additional sled tests were conducted during this past summer to
determine the forces transmitted through the seat and seat anchorages
under this full frontal crash condition, as well as experienced under
different crash velocities, impact angles, and restraint conditions.
Component tests are now underway to assess the feasibility of
developing a performance procedure. Once those tests are completed this
fall, and if the test data indicate feasibility, initiation of
rulemaking proceedings could then occur.
In the area of roof strength, we conducted tests on four
motorcoaches in February. Those tests were designed to bracket
motorcoach body styles (i.e., short vs. long window spacing) for a
comparison of U.S. school bus and European roof strength procedures to
determine the relative stringency and practicability of those differing
requirements in applicability to motorcoaches. We are now assessing
those results to determine our next steps.
Emergency evacuation studies are underway to identify studies from
other transportation modes and countries and then determine
applicability to motorcoaches. This involves conducting human
evacuation studies and simulations under various emergency exit
scenarios. Another aspect of this effort is to examine the minimum
strength requirements necessary to open emergency exits, with special
consideration for young and elderly occupants and the need to balance
rapid emergency egress with containment requirements to prevent
Finally, NHTSA has contracted with the National Institutes for
Standards and Technology to conduct the fire safety aspects of our
motorcoach safety effort. This study is designed to review existing
flammability standards and procedures and determine which might be most
applicable to improve motorcoach safety. Research on motorcoach fire
propagation properties will examine the U.S. vs. European procedures
for vehicle interior materials. Wheel well mockup studies will be
conducted on the tires, fuel and HVAC lines, external body panels,
insulation, and wiring. Those tests will measure flame temperatures,
heat release, fire resistance of components, and propagation to the
passenger compartment. Countermeasure assessments will also be examined
for fire hardening, fire detection, and fire suppression strategies.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your consideration and this
Subcommittee's ongoing efforts to improve highway safety. I would be
pleased to answer any questions.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you all very much.
Mr. Hill, after you discovered in the Sherman, Texas crash
this summer, in which it appears an operator whose license had
been revoked simply got a new registration number--how does
this happen? And what do we have to do to prevent this from
Mr. Hill. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the question. I would
just point out that even though they had a USDOT number, they
were not legally prepared to operate. They had not fulfilled
their licensing requirement. One of the things that we have in
our current computer system is that people can apply for USDOT
numbers, but they also have to have operating authority, and
until they complete the operating authority process, they are
not permitted to conduct interstate commerce.
Senator Lautenberg. How intense is the review for operating
authority permission? What do you do to satisfy that this is
someone who is qualified to operate a bus service?
Mr. Hill. Every motor carrier coming into the business has
to show, first of all, that they have the financial wherewithal
to engage in that business to protect the people that they are
carrying. So they are required to file $5 million worth of
insurance with the agency before they are ever allowed to
Second, they have to disclose to us information through an
application process that will allow us to verify information
that they are providing has not been falsified or is in any way
recreating themselves as a new carrier. One of the things that
we have instituted as a result of ongoing evaluation of our
process is to make sure that we vet these a lot more carefully
on the front end.
Even though it would not have stopped the Sherman crash--
this person was intent on running anyway--we believe that we
can prevent future crashes by lengthening the time of review
that allows for us to properly investigate each one of the
passenger carrier applications. There are about 875 of them a
Senator Lautenberg. Well, does that review involve a
physical visit to the home location? I recognize that with a
very small operation that--these applications come in fairly
frequently. But how do you be certain that there are not
violations of law in the application itself. But do people from
your office physically visit these folks? Are they asked to
come in and have a conversation?
Mr. Hill. Yes, Mr. Chairman. Let me point to two things.
First of all, in the vetting process to evaluate fitness
for operating authority, we are looking at not only the
application process, but we are sending the information to our
field offices because they have routine contact with carriers
that are trying to evade enforcement activities or compliance.
So they would be familiar with names or carriers that are
already in operation. So we require them or the State
enforcement people to look at the application, give us any
information they might have about the applicant. That is the
And then we run them against our data bases for any kind of
addresses, telephone numbers, or anything that would be an
identifier that would indicate that this newly created carrier
is trying to evade an out-of-service order or any kind of
enforcement case penalty that has previously been issued to
them. So that is the one side of the authority vetting process.
The other side is that we are also doing new entrant safety
audits, and the law requires us to do those within 18 months,
as I said in my statement. We are going to these carriers
within 5 months after we get notice that they are applying. We
are visiting their place of business. We physically go. We
interview the owner or the safety manager responsible for that
company and we take information from them.
Senator Lautenberg. Well, in most states, cars capable of
carrying only five people must pass a government inspection to
be legally registered and driven. This is an automobile. Your
agency, however, allows bus companies to annually inspect their
vehicles themselves, and they carry up to 56 passengers.
Now, we learned a lesson with the airlines that when it
comes to the safety of the traveling public, you cannot simply
trust the companies to self-certify that important safety tests
have been done correctly.
You have 40,000 annual inspections that are being done by
4,000 U.S. motorcoach companies. How do you know they are being
Mr. Hill. Well, that is why we have a roadside inspection
program, Mr. Chairman. We have increased our roadside
inspection activities significantly in the last 3 years.
Senator Lautenberg. How many of those inspections do you
conduct in a year?
Mr. Hill. Well, this year so far we have done 140,000
inspections on buses in this country, and previously----
Senator Lautenberg. With how many people?
Mr. Hill. Well, there are approximately 9,000----
Senator Lautenberg. No, no. In your organization.
Mr. Hill. We only do a small percentage of the inspections
along the southern border. Primarily, we do bus inspections
with about 270 people. I think we do 30,000 to 35,000
inspections along the southern border. But nationally the
numbers that I am giving you of 140,000--those are
representative of State inspections as well.
Senator Lautenberg. Can they be thorough with that number
of people and those number inspections required?
Mr. Hill. Well, these inspections require about 30 to 45
minutes to go through them. I personally used to be certified
in the process. It requires checking of 32 different items on a
motorcoach or a bus. And yes, they are very thorough and they
do find violations regularly.
Senator Lautenberg. I will take a minute more. Senator
Hutchison, when you choose, we will give you the time you need.
Mr. Rosenker, how do we know that an annual inspection is
adequate at all given the number of miles some of these buses
put on in a particular year, and should they be done more
frequently? And from your standpoint, are these thorough
Mr. Rosenker. Mr. Chairman, we have been concerned about
two particular elements of motorcoach safety and oversight by
FMCSA. One area of concern is, specifically, the driver
himself. Is he qualified? Is he medically fit? Does he have a
performance record that enables him to drive safely? And on the
other side, the maintenance and mechanics of the vehicle
itself. In addition, we have made recommendations to FMCSA and
they have made progress on those, but we continue to see that
more needs to be done in the area of oversight as it relates to
Senator Lautenberg. Is that numbers of inspections or more
detail in the inspection?
Mr. Rosenker. Both, sir.
Senator Lautenberg. Mr. Hill, just a month after the tragic
Bluffton University chartered motorcoach crash, your agency
gave the bus company involved a satisfactory safety rating.
According to the NTSB in its July 2008 report on the crash, the
safety audit performed found several serious safety violations.
Does that not tell you that there is a problem with the rating
system when a company like this is allowed to keep going?
Mr. Hill. Mr. Chairman, one of the issues that we have been
working to resolve is an open recommendation with the National
Transportation Safety Board on the evaluation of safety fitness
for motor carriers. We inaugurated a study and a program change
into the way we are going to be implementing safety fitness in
the future. It is called the Comprehensive Safety Analysis
2010. We are expecting a rulemaking to be published in early
2009 that would begin to start the safety rating process
review. So instead of rating carriers with only acute and
critical violations, as you referred to in your comments about
the Bluffton company, we will be rating companies based upon
violations that are found at the roadside, as well as what are
found in terms of the compliance review process. We will have a
much more comprehensive review and safety rating methodology,
and, it will include driver fitness factors, not just equipment
factors and company factors.
Senator Lautenberg. So that suggests that at this point in
time that we are lacking some part of a proper review. You talk
Mr. Hill. We have observed a deficiency in our safety
rating process, and we believe that it needed to be reformed
and that is why we took the action to do that. It started
several years ago, and my predecessor and I have been quite
diligent to ensure that that is not going to slip in time
lines, and we are going to get it implemented.
Senator Lautenberg. So there perhaps is a risk that we
endure until we have a chance to bring up the standards as you
would like to see them?
Mr. Hill. Well, actually I do not think that I would
characterize it as enduring. We are already doing a pilot
program in the state of New Jersey as one state to test this
safety fitness. So we are actually working the safety fitness
process right now with four states in the country, and we are
going to roll that out even further as we move along.
Senator Lautenberg. And I will close with asking Mr. Kelly
a question. Since a number of injuries and fatalities involved
passengers being ejected from the bus--it seems everyone agrees
with that, and the legislation proposed by Senator Hutchison
focuses on that as well--why does your agency not require seat
belts to be made available on buses for passengers?
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Senator Lautenberg.
We have been looking at the issue of seat belts on
motorcoaches, especially as a result of the crash test that we
did last December where we got over 4 million data points from
that one crash alone. We had every configuration that you could
think of about belted and unbelted passengers. We had unbelted
passengers behind a belted passenger. And I have some video
that I would like to submit to the record at some point of the
crash test.* And you can see in the crash the
unbelted passengers, obviously, fared much worse than the
\*\ This video is retained in Committee files.
What we need to do with that data is develop
recommendations and finish analyzing it. If we are going to
move forward with the rulemaking process, we are going to have
to develop a standard, a performance evaluation for the seat
belts to meet. And that is what we are doing right now, and
that is what we intend to have done in December.
Senator Lautenberg. So we know about the importance of
them, and we just have to get to that. Thank you.
Senator Hutchison. Thank you.
I would just like to follow up on that. You have said in
your testimony that you have been studying this for quite a
while, starting with your--well, you have been looking at it
even before your meeting with the Canadian officials. But my
question is, from the data that you have gotten, you said you
expect to have exactly what done in December? The standards set
and that you would be able to go out with a rulemaking, or what
is your time line for a process to go forward on seat belts if
you think you are going to make that decision?
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Senator.
What we plan to do is to take the data from the test, from
the crash test, and not only the data that we got from that
test, but also subsequent sled testing and component testing
that we did throughout this past year, and take that data and
come up with really a performance standard by which, if we are
going to move forward, that is what we would do in a rulemaking
process. That is what we would set so manufacturers know what
they would need to manufacture toward.
But there is all of that data that we are analyzing. That 4
million data points that I mentioned before is 300 times more
data than we get in any one single crash test that we do with a
regular car. So the volume of data there is extensive for us to
be evaluating and moving forward on.
Senator Hutchison. That was done in--when was----
Mr. Kelly. That was done in December 2007, 10 months ago.
Senator Hutchison. And that seems like a reasonable time to
look at the data and make that determination?
Mr. Kelly. With that much data and with the subsequent
testing that we did with the sled tests and the component
testing that we have been doing over the spring and early
summer, yes. We think that is a quick turnaround on the data
Senator Hutchison. Have you made a decision about whether
you would do a rulemaking on providing safety belts?
Mr. Kelly. We have not made that decision as to whether we
would move forward with a rulemaking. We are still looking at
the performance standard. Moving forward with a rulemaking
process is a cumbersome process. What we need to first do is
determine what the data tells us, and we are still evaluating
Senator Hutchison. If we were to pass the legislation that
Senator Brown and I have introduced, you could use the data
that you already have in place for the implementation of a
rulemaking. Is that correct?
Mr. Kelly. Absolutely.
Senator Hutchison. Let me ask you. Have all three of you
looked at my legislation? I would like to ask each of you to
tell us what you think is good about the bill and if you have
concerns of any part of the bill.
Mr. Rosenker. I have looked at the legislation. I have seen
a number of drafts. I am not in full knowledge of exactly what
each and every one of the provision is ultimately going to be
But I can tell you that the body of this legislation
basically incorporates a great deal of what the NTSB has been
recommending both to my colleague at the FMCSA and also my
colleague at the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. If we can get this legislation passed, I
genuinely believe we will be taking--not one step, but many,
many, many steps toward either preventing accidents from
happening because of the technological aspects of the
provisions or mitigating accidents that we cannot prevent.
So I personally and my colleagues at the Board are quite
supportive of the provisions and the concepts which have been
developed so far in this legislation. We applaud your work, and
we also applaud Senator Brown's work. We would encourage a
quick passage of this legislation because it will begin the
process of accident elimination and mitigation.
Senator Hutchison. Thank you very much.
Mr. Kelly. Senator Hutchison, we have also been looking at
the bill and also working with your staff and Committee staff
on the bill and also applaud the intentions of the bill. We
think that it provides additional safety for motorcoach
We have also gone through various drafts of the bill, and I
am not exactly sure which version we are talking about at this
point. But we have shared with your staff some of the concerns
that we had which were more technical in nature, time lines,
performance standards, and things like that. As a whole, I
think that the bill is a step in the right direction about
providing additional benefits and I think is something that we
are more than willing to continue to work with you and your
Senator Hutchison. Let me ask you this, and then I do want
to hear from Mr. Hill. But let ask you. Seat belts. I think we
are in general agreement that--you have seen results that show
a major improvement. I do not want to put words in your mouth,
but you have seen from your tests that there is a major
improvement between passengers that are restrained and those
that are not. So I think we can agree that seat belts will
improve safety and you have to get the right standards and all
Integrity of windows, the window glazing. Is that something
that you also see as a potential lifesaver in the data that you
have seen or in the NTSB reports that you have seen?
Mr. Kelly. We do not see as much benefit out of the window
glazing for the side windows as we do for occupant protection.
And one of the reasons is because in the testing that we have
done and that we have seen in the work that we did with
Transport Canada, it was not as much of an issue where the
window was breaking or shattering, it was an issue of where the
entire windowpane was popping out and you would still have the
hole in the side for the ejection. And glazing was not helping.
It is sort of like an ice cube tray with ice cubes when you
start wiggling the sides and they all pop out. I think that
there are greater benefits to be had with window retention as
opposed to glazing.
Senator Hutchison. OK.
Mr. Rosenker, are you in agreement on window integrity so
that they would not pop out as a larger goal over glazing?
Mr. Rosenker. Our position for close to a decade is that we
take a systems approach to mitigating the results of a terrible
crash or a rollover where potentially people can be ejected.
While Mr. Kelly talks about making sure that the window stays
in place, we want to make sure that if the window stays in
place, it has the integrity that is needed so that the
passenger does not go through the window. So we stand by our
position in glazing.
But we also talk about the need for an appropriate occupant
protection system; a combination of things which would
potentially include a number of design improvements. We like,
as you have even talked about in your legislation,
strengthening the roof so that it cannot be crushed into the
compartment area. It has got to be a scientifically designed
system that incorporates all of the latest technology in
We applaud the work that is being done in this effort, and
we would hope that this could be done in an expeditious manner.
We do know that these technologies exists not only in the
United States, but also in Europe.
Senator Hutchison. Mr. Hill, I know your area is a little
different, and what you and I have talked about, the
stabilization technology--so if you would talk about, from your
standpoint, what you think is helpful in the bill and if there
are any concerns that you have.
Mr. Hill. Well, first of all, Senator Hutchison, thank you
for taking the initiative to think about motorcoach safety. I
know your state has experienced tragedy in this area, but I
applaud you for moving ahead with this.
I would just say that we support many of the provisions of
this bill and we have been working with your staff and will
continue to provide specific information. Let me just point out
a couple things.
We are moving forward with the medical certification rule
that would merge the CDL process, the licensing process, with
the medical process. That will be a final rule and it will be
issued later this year.
We are issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking later this
year on the registry of medical examiners, and so that will
give us a database that will allow us to track who is doing
medical exams, and if they are doing them correctly. The
examiners will be certified or accredited in order to perform
So those are two main provisions that I think your bill
One of the things that your bill also does is it deals with
electronic on-board recorders, and we are going to be
publishing a final rule this year. And I would just say that if
you want to mandate, that would go beyond what our rule
eventually does, then that would be something that we would
have to take into consideration and issue interim guidance on.
Senator Hutchison. So you are going to be doing something
in that area at the end of this year?
Mr. Hill. Yes, ma'am, the final rule.
Senator Hutchison. Final rule or NPRM?
Mr. Hill. Final rule, electronic on-board recorders.
Senator Hutchison. Oh, good.
Mr. Hill. The chairman held a hearing earlier about this
and admonished us to move that along.
Senator Hutchison. Good.
Mr. Hill. And then I would just say the one provision of
the bill that we would want to make sure that we can finesse
and work together is our Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010,
redesign of our safety fitness program the Chairman was just
questioning me about. We would want to make sure that the
contents of this bill allow us to continue with that
modernization of our safety fitness and not have two different
kinds of rating systems that would be in place. But I am sure
that we could discuss that and come to some resolution. But we
applaud the Committee for moving ahead.
Senator Hutchison. All right. Well, those were the major
things that I have.
Mr. Chairman, I have to step out. We are trying to finish
this tax extender negotiation for some of our people here, our
victims of Hurricane Ike. And I am trying to get some disaster
protection. So I am going to have to step out.
But I thank you very much. I am going to try to step back
in, but I really appreciate that what I am hearing is that all
three of you believe that we can take some major steps forward
with the legislation. And if you all can beat us to the punch
with a rulemaking, it is good, but if you cannot, whatever
status you are in will make the time table more doable. So I
think that we are all going to work together here to enhance
safety and that is a good thing. So thank you very much.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you, Senator Hutchison. The
legislation sounds like it has a real good purpose and will
make bus riding safer, and that is a perfect objective for
Senator Hutchison. I will look forward to working with you,
Senator Lautenberg. And good luck with the tax extenders.
Senator Lautenberg. Now I thank you very much, members of
And we will now invite the members of the second panel to
come to the witness table. They bring a combination of policy
expertise and personal experience to the issue, and we look
forward to hearing from them.
Mr. Peter Pantuso, the President and CEO of the American
Bus Association. Mr. Pantuso will share with us the industry's
plan for improving our Federal motorcoach safety programs.
Ms. Jackie Gillan, Vice President of Advocates for Highway
and Auto Safety. She is a longtime fighter for more safety on
the road. We know each other from our work for safety and
protection of the people in transportation and for cars,
trucks, buses alike, and we welcome your ideas.
And we have Mr. Steve Forman. Is Mr. Forman here? Well, the
one that has your name on it is the one you are choosing if you
are Mr. Forman. And we are happy to have your testimony. We
know that your daughter was injured last year when the school
bus that her team was riding rolled over in Devers, Texas.
And Mr. John Betts will testify about the Bluffton
University baseball accident. Mr. Betts' son David died when
the bus carrying the Bluffton baseball team drove off a highway
overpass in Atlanta, Georgia.
And I express to all of you who had a family member, a
friend who was injured or was killed--we appreciate the fact
that you are willing to be here today and do not want to see
any other family suffer the loss and anguish that you
experienced. I thank all of you for being here.
Mr. Pantuso, if you would, you may begin. We have a 5-
minute limit. I am usually fairly generous, but not too much
so. So red means put on the brakes. Thank you and please give
us your testimony.
STATEMENT OF PETER J. PANTUSO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AMERICAN BUS
Mr. Pantuso. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your
leadership in convening this hearing. The American Bus
Association represents 800 bus companies who operate nearly
two-thirds of all the motorcoaches on the road. The motorcoach
industry is diverse and its bedrock is small businesses. In
fact, a typical company has fewer than five coaches.
Collectively these companies, though, provide more than 700
million passenger trips annually, as many as provided by the
Mr. Chairman, let me be very clear. The bus industry does
not oppose seat belts. What we do favor is rigorous scientific
research before arriving at any conclusions. And what we do
oppose is a rush to judgment.
Safety is our number one priority and always has been. It
is not just enough that Government statistics show the bus is
the safest way to travel, as was reaffirmed earlier by
Administrator Hill and Chairman Rosenker. We want to be even
safer. However, recent bus crashes illustrate that there are
bus companies that should never have been allowed to be on the
ABA promotes safety through its Bus Industry Safety Council
comprised on safety experts, associations, engineers, and
government agencies, including NHTSA, NTSB, and FMCSA. ABA is a
member of FMCSA's Safety Advisory Committee and has recommended
The heart of this issue is unsafe operators, combined with
a lack of enforcement, lack of cooperation between Federal and
State agencies. Today a new bus company need only file an
application, pay a $300 fee, and provide temporary proof of
insurance to be granted Federal operating authority. An
inspection of a carrier's equipment and personnel and records
can take up to 18 months after authority is granted. It is
difficult to imagine the FAA granting an application for an
airline without prior review of its fitness to operate.
Following the horrific crash by an illegal operator in
Sherman, Texas, Administrator Hill froze applications for new
bus companies' operating authority, a critical first step. But
more must be done.
The record shows that some of the most serious bus
accidents were a result of carriers who were operating
illegally or had a record of safety violations. Earlier this
week, the ABA proposed a plan to enhance bus safety by getting
illegal, unsafe operators off the road and increasing
enforcement of existing laws. And I ask that plan be attributed
to my testimony and appended to my testimony.
Elements of the plan include that FMCSA must ensure that
the $300 million going to states for inspections include buses,
not just trucks. A State-by-State patchwork quilt of
enforcement is completely unacceptable. Therefore, FMCSA and
State law enforcement officials must work together and share
information so that another Sherman, Texas crash never happens.
Illegal and unsafe operators involved in fatal crashes should
be charged with Federal crimes and prosecuted to the maximum
extent of the law.
ABA is eager to work with Congress to make bus
transportation safer. The late Congressman Paul Gillmor from
Ohio started us on a road to a bipartisan bill for bus safety.
Congressman Bill Shuster and other House members came together
and introduced H.R. 4690 which provides NHTSA with time and
resources to research safety issues and develop new standards.
It also provides a phase-in period for manufacturers and
operators to meet the new standards, as well as an investment
of Federal funds so that buses can be retrofit in a very timely
fashion. During this period, states should be also prevented
from imposing new regulations so that bus operators are not
subject to inconsistent or contradictory standards across the
But that is just the beginning, Mr. Chairman. Bus safety
requires a holistic approach. Safety equipment cannot be bolted
onto a vehicle. It must be engineered into the vehicle's
NHTSA finally began bus research last year, after a decade
of prompting by the bus industry, the first time they have
moved on this issue in history. Now they need the time to
complete their work. One cannot rush safety research or put a
time table on science. Safety is just too important to be left
to intuition, to chance, or even to educated guesses. Safety
demands rigorous testing.
We welcome the opportunity to work with you, Mr. Chairman,
and the Committee for a safer bus industry. We appreciate the
opportunity to be here.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Pantuso follows:]
Prepared Statement of Peter J. Pantuso, President and CEO,
American Bus Association
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, my name is Peter J.
Pantuso and I serve as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the
American Bus Association (ABA). The ABA and its 3800 members would like
to thank you, Mr. Chairman for your leadership in convening this
hearing. The ABA appreciates the opportunity to testify on the issue of
bus and motor carrier safety and to work with you, the Committee and
the Congress on the reauthorization of the Nation's transportation
programs in the coming year.
We also come before you today representing the interests of the
entire industry including the National Tour Association and the United
Motorcoach Association. Both organizations are equally concerned about
safe motorcoach travel and each represents significant motorcoach
companies. For its part the ABA is the national trade association for
the independent, private over-the-road bus industry. ABA is a voluntary
organization comprised of companies that operate buses and provide
related services to the motorcoach industry. Our bus operator members,
of which there are 850, operate 40 to 45 foot touring coaches with
baggage bays under a passenger compartment. These operators also
represent nearly sixty-five percent of all motorcoaches on the road
today in North America. Nearly all of these operator members provide
charter and tour service (like Coach America located in Texas) commuter
service (like Academy Bus Lines in New Jersey) and some 100 ABA member
companies provide regular route scheduled service like Trailways and
Greyhound. The American motorcoach industry is diverse but its bedrock
is small business men and women. ABA's average member has eight
motorcoaches or fewer. Our operator members provide local, regional and
national services. Together ABA members provide all manner of bus
services and provide in excess of seven hundred million passenger trips
annually, a number which approximates the number of passengers carried
by U.S. airlines in any given year. In addition, we move more
passengers in 2 weeks than Amtrak does in a year.
Chief among our duties is providing charter and tour services to
the Nation. We bring families, school groups and senior citizens
together for tours, family reunions, festivals, sporting events, fairs
and to see the beauty of our country. ABA members will provide these
services safely. We do so because it is a part of ABA's mission, i.e.,
to provide safe trips to all our passengers and because our families,
neighbors and friends ride with us every day. ABA believes that there
is no margin for error in safety; we must be safe and even one accident
tarnishes the industry. The problem today is that there has been a
spate of accidents by bus companies that should not have been on the
ABA and Bus Safety
ABA promotes safety in the industry is several ways. First, ABA
long ago established the Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC). This
organization is composed of the safety directors of bus companies and
key representatives from bus industry suppliers, and state and Federal
Government agencies. BISC meets at least twice a year to discuss and
provide guidance and best practices on industry safety issues. At
BISC's July meeting there were discussions and panels led by or
participated in by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
(FMCSA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It is important to note
that BISC is open to all bus operators and all those interested in bus
safety whether or not they are members of the ABA.
ABA's commitment to safety goes beyond BISC. ABA led the fight
against dangerous roadside inspections which required buses to unload
their passengers by the side of the road in traffic while buses were
inspected. The fact of youngsters and senior citizens along the road
while cars and trucks passed by at 70 miles per hour was an accident
waiting to happen. Earlier this summer, ABA was instrumental in
securing the passage of H.R. 3985 (P.L. 110-219) which requires FMCSA
to certify the willingness and ability of motor carriers to abide by
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before the agency grants that
carrier authority to operate. And we advanced that legislation in the
face of some opposition within the bus industry. Indeed, before
drafting that legislation, ABA sued the FMCSA seeking to enforce the
ADA, a suit the FMCSA and the Department of Transportation vigorously
In addition, through the ABA, the independent, private bus industry
is a member of FMCSA's Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC).
This Federal advisory committee meets each quarter to evaluate and
provide recommendations to the FMCSA Administrator on safety issues.
Moreover, the MCSAC engages in determining how best to extend the
agency's resources to advance safe bus and truck operations. ABA
participates in the MCSAC with the American Trucking Associations, the
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Road Safe America and several
state law enforcement agencies. Several ABA recommendations to FMCSA,
for example, increasing bus inspections, have been included in the
FMCSA's list of recommendations for the reauthorization of the Nation's
transportation programs scheduled for next year. Reauthorization looms
large in ABA's plans for safer buses and safer operators and in ABA's
view enforcement of current bus safety standards is key to safe bus
Enforcement is Critical
ABA believes strongly that the heart of the problem of accidents
and fatalities are unsafe operators and the lack of FMCSA's and state
enforcement officials' attention to a motor carriers' safety fitness
prior to granting authority to operate. There is also a lack of
cooperation between the Federal Government and the states in getting
unfit bus companies off of the nation's highways. It is difficult to
see the FAA granting an application for an air carrier without a prior
review of its fitness to operate but that is essentially what happens
to bus applicants.
Today, a person seeking authority to operate need only file an
application, pay a fee of three hundred dollars and provide proof of
insurance (five million dollars); an applicant gains operating
authority before it can be shown that he or she is a safe operator. Any
inspection of a carrier's equipment, personnel or records can take up
to 18 months after authority is granted, a regulatory scheme that puts
the cart before the horse and opens the public to unsafe operators.
FMCSA has released statistics which reveal that in 2007 the number
of applications for new and expanded regular route authority amounted
to almost 50 percent of the industry. And still there is no
investigation of fitness before authority is granted. Recently,
following the horrific accident in Texas, FMCSA Administrator Hill
froze the processing of all applications for passenger carrier
authority while he addresses the issues surrounding the unprecedented
number of applications. We applaud Administrator Hill for taking this
bold step. This demonstrates that FMCSA itself has focused on the need
to address the entry issue.
How important is it to certify a carrier's safety fitness prior to
granting authority? ABA has determined that over the last decade each
of the most serious bus accidents were the product of carriers who were
either operating illegally or had serious pre-existing safety issues.
Inspecting a carrier before it begins operations and requiring periodic
inspections thereafter would help reduce this toll of lives and
accidents. ABA believes that any examination of a carrier's safety
fitness must include a review of the operator's safety management
program and a physical inspection of the operator's vehicles. Our
proposed inspection process is virtually identical to the process now
used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to vet motor carriers which
seek to transport military personnel. The DOD contracts with third
party inspectors to carry out these inspections, something we have long
advocated to FMCSA.
Second, FMCSA must implement the authority given it in SAFETEA-LU
to deny authority to individuals who startup new bus companies after
already developing bad safety records at prior companies. It appears
that the most recent accident was the product of this type of operator.
Third, Congress should require that states enforce any interstate
shutdown orders from FMCSA and cancel any intrastate operating
authority issued to bus companies whose interstate operating authority
is terminated by FMCSA or whose interstate application is denied on
fitness grounds. This is a particular problem in states with extensive
intrastate operations. The states must become more aggressive in
confiscating the license plates and vehicle registrations for non-
Fourth, Congress should require that FMCSA and the states ensure
that carriers applying for private charter authority do not use that
authority to provide common carrier, scheduled or fixed route service
open to the general public. This is a particular problem in the Border
States. Even though cross-border, fixed route bus authority grants are
frozen under NAFTA, charter applications are not. Thus, carriers on
both sides of the border get charter authority from FMCSA and then run
fixed route service with no effort to prevent these illegal operations.
Fifth, the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) provides
the states with Federal dollars to support a bus inspection program. In
ABA's view only a handful of states have an effective bus inspection
program. The states must demonstrate that they have effective bus
inspection programs. States are provided funds through the Motor
Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), to provide these programs.
Last year Federal MCSAP grants exceeded two hundred million dollars.
Lastly, for many years ABA has supported a provision that would
require FMCSA to establish a medical registry. Such a registry would
provide bus operators with an approved list of qualified medical
providers who will not certify a driver's fitness for duty if the
driver is unfit. Currently, a driver could ``shop'' for a medical
professional who knows little about transportation or those medical
conditions that bear upon safe operations. As a result, a medically
unqualified driver would be certified fit for duty.
As this Committee moves toward reauthorization, please keep in mind
that ABA is eager to work with you on all manner of transportation
issues. We are available to anyone who calls with a request for help in
making buses safer. It was such a call from the late Congressman Paul
Gillmor (R-Ohio) which started us on the road to H.R. 4690, a
bipartisan bill that provides a comprehensive plan for bus safety. The
industry, ABA, Greyhound Lines, the unions and the United Motorcoach
Association (UMA), and others worked for several months to craft this
bill. After the death of Congressman Gillmor, Congressman Bill Shuster
and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson came together in a bipartisan
effort to introduce the bill that is now H.R. 4690. Other House members
have joined this coalition and ABA continues to support this bill. The
bill provides time for NHTSA to research safety issues, time for any
new standards to be implemented by the industry, including the bus
manufacturers who would have to retool and perhaps reengineer their
process and it provides funds so that bus companies can retrofit their
buses in a timely fashion.
But H.R. 4690 is neither our only legislative effort nor did our
safety initiatives begin 2 years ago. ABA also actively supports H.R.
3820, a bill to provide tax credits to motor carriers which install
advanced safety equipment (e.g., lane departure warning, electronic
stability controls) in their buses. ABA believes that proper bus safety
legislation will materially aid our goal for safer bus operators and
operations and we commend these bills for your consideration as we move
into the reauthorization process.
One thing is certain. While bus safety is vital, the issue is also
complicated. The safety of any vehicle is dependent on many issues.
This is no less true of motorcoaches. Several factors must be weighed
before any person; agency or organization can pronounce a bus safe or
unsafe or say with certainty that any one change will make the bus
safer. I have already noted that the skill, ability, resources and
willingness of the driver and bus company are of prime importance.
Likewise, the type, make and model of the motorcoach are issues that
must be considered. Obviously, newer motorcoaches are built differently
than older models and may have more safety features. The type of crash
a bus is involved in is also important. For example, seat belts may
help passengers in so-called ``roll over'' crashes but in other type of
crashes a combination of compartmentalization and other safety
improvements may be just as effective.
Bus window design may also be a factor. Bus engineers have noted
that fatalities in bus crashes began largely with the advent of larger
bus windows, hence the need for NHTSA to study advanced window glazing
techniques. In considering fire suppression one issue is where to place
any additional fire suppression gear on a motorcoach and at what cost
to other bus safety systems?
Reauthorization provides this Committee with a rare opportunity to
craft a comprehensive bus safety bill that all parties and
transportation stakeholders can support. And here ABA would like to
commend Committee Ranking Member Senator Hutchison for her efforts in
fostering such a bill. In the Committee's continued efforts on behalf
of this goal, ABA asks you to keep my testimony and concerns in mind
regarding any bus safety legislation. Those concerns may be grouped
around three issues: implementation, retrofit standards and liability.
First, any bill that requires NHTSA to promulgate standards for
seatbelts, advanced window glazing and improved firefighting equipment
should require that NHTSA research and test for these issues prior to
promulgating standards for these buses. Further, there must be
sufficient time for bus manufacturers, operators and maintenance
professionals to meet the new standards.
Clearly, new NHTSA requirements must be based on what research and
testing determines is appropriate, and NHTSA should have 3 years to do
the testing and initiate and complete the rulemaking. Then NHTSA must
be required to develop standards for each of these items and their
installation on both new and retrofitted buses. The new and retrofit
standards are likely to be quite different, given the vast array of
existing over-the-road buses. Retrofit standards will be complicated by
the various motorcoach makes, model and manufacturers and the fact that
a motorcoach normally has a 25 year life cycle. NHTSA will also have to
take into account different flooring, anchors and seat construction.
One size retrofit standards will not fit all buses. The complicated
issue of retrofitting buses also points up the need for Federal
financial assistance in order to retrofit buses. Unlike the transit
industry our buses are not federally funded or maintained with Federal
money. We are an industry composed of small businesses and the
imposition of a seatbelt mandate for every bus will be a heavy one. It
will be impossible to fulfill without Federal funds.
In addition, a too brief implementation phase-in time for all buses
is unreasonable and unworkable. First, in one year, the four major
world bus manufacturers (only one is a domestic company) produce a
combined total of nearly 2000 motorcoaches for the U.S. market.
Currently, there are 40,000 motorcoaches on the U.S. highways. The bus
manufacturers will probably need more than a year just to retool and
re-engineer their product to comply with the new law. Thus, the vast
majority of buses would have to be retrofitted. This will be an
extremely expensive and burdensome undertaking. Ironically, an
unreasonably tight time-frame could also mean less safe buses overall
since it would divert resources from new bus purchases, which may be
safer than older buses.
Installing seat belts is not just a matter of bolting a belt to a
seat. It may be, depending on the type of belt and bus, a matter of
redesigning the seat, strengthening the bus floor or changing the seat
configuration. Safety cannot simply be added on to any equipment, it
must be engineered into that equipment. In H.R. 4690, bus manufacturers
were given 3 years to retool their plants and redesign their products
to meet the new standards. The operator phase-in period is that
mandated by Congress in the implementation of the bus provisions of the
Americans with Disabilities Act. That is, that bus fleets be 50 percent
compliant within 6 years and fully compliant within 12 years. We
believe that these timeframes are appropriate for the private bus
One other concern ABA and its members have about any bus safety
legislation is that of liability protection for bus operators and
manufacturers. H.R. 4690 addresses this issue by providing liability
protection for bus operators and bus makers during the law's phase in
period. Without such protection bus operators and manufacturers would
be sued for not having seatbelts even though the law would not yet
require the buses to be so equipped. Moreover, during the phase-in
period of the Federal regulations it is important that bus
manufacturers be protected from states imposing their own regulations.
Without such protection, interstate motor carriers could be subjected
to inconsistent or even contradictory standards concerning all manner
of safety equipment. When Congress mandated the use of air bags in
passenger vehicles it provided just such protection for automobile
manufacturers; that is, during the phase in period, manufacturers or
owners could not be sued for not having air bags or be subject to
inconsistent state requirements. That is exactly what ABA seeks with
any new legislation.
NHTSA Bus Crash Testing Program
ABA's efforts to prevent bus crashes and to lessen the damage from
such accidents began with the NTSB's Bus Crashworthiness hearing in
1998. Since then ABA has asked NHTSA to apply to Congress for authority
and funds to begin a bus crash testing program. Then, as now, ABA wants
to determine the safety of the buses we operate and how to discover
ways to make them safer. After years of distaining such a program
because of the industry's low number of fatalities, an average of 22 a
year, late last year NHTSA finally began such a program, the first in
its history. The program, studying the need for new regulations on fire
prevention and suppression, emergency egress, roof strength standards
and occupant protection is a step in the right direction. In fact, ABA
would wish the program be more rigorous. However, ABA and its members
are in partnership with the agency in this effort. We provide
resources, including technical expertise and equipment for the program.
Our experts are in regular contact with the NHTSA staff. ABA hopes for
a timely analysis of the reams of data that just one crash test
produced and that the industry will get answers to the questions of
whether, and if so, how the buses we depend on can be made safer.
Now that NHTSA has begun its research and testing program, ABA
believes that it needs time to complete its work before it can provide
scientifically correct conclusions as to the future safety needs of
buses. One cannot rush safety research and one must look at all the
evidence. For example, recent bus crashes involved equipment in which
seatbelts were provided, yet the injuries and fatalities seem (and the
evidence is yet unclear) to be as bad as those crashes with buses not
equipped with seat belts. This question raises other questions, for
example, the responsibility for ensuring seat belt use. None of us know
the answers to these questions because the testing is ongoing, the data
still unclear. It is not a question for ABA alone. Last year, Texas
passed a law requiring seat belts on all buses which carry students
from Kindergarten to Grade 12. According to news reports, there is now
an effort in the legislature to re-look at that law in part because
there is no science or testing to support the law's conclusion that
seat belts are necessary or at least not harmful in all accidents.
Hopefully in addition to providing the Committee with the facts it
needs to legislate bus safety during reauthorization, my testimony will
also dispel a myth about the industry's promotion of and interest in
safety. That myth of ``if the industry really wanted to do it, it would
have done so already.'' Nothing could be further from the truth. What
standards would the industry use for installing, for example, seat
belts? What type of belts and on what type of equipment? And what if
the Federal agencies then determine that the standards used were
incorrect? Since 1966, it is the Federal Government's role to set these
standards. Heretofore, it has chosen not to act. How can any one say
that the industry should have acted in the government's stead?
ABA's view is that safety is too important to be left to intuition,
chance or even educated guesses. Safety demands rigorous testing and
specific answers to the questions surrounding the development,
installation, and use of any safety equipment in a variety of
circumstances. Safety also demands rigorous enforcement of the
regulatory tools available and the development of new tools as needed.
But those answers and those new tools cannot be rushed solely because
we wish to have them sooner. It is for these reasons that we work with
NHTSA on the bus crash testing program, we work with FMCSA on demanding
ADA accessible transportation and upgrading the skills of bus
operators, and we work with NTSB at every bus accident investigation.
It is safe to say that ABA will work with anyone who calls and has an
idea for safer buses, operations and educating the public on how to
pick a safe bus operator. For those reasons and, as I stated at the
beginning of my testimony, for the simple reason that our families,
friends and colleagues ride with us every day, we are happy to work
with you Mr. Chairman and with the Committee and with the Congress for
a safer bus industry.
Once again, on behalf of the 700 million passengers who ride with
us every year and the 3800 ABA member companies and organizations, I
thank you for allowing us to testify and I am happy to answer any
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much.
Ms. Gillan, we welcome and invite you to give your
STATEMENT OF JACQUELINE S. GILLAN, VICE PRESIDENT, ADVOCATES
FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY
Ms. Gillan. Thank you, Senator Lautenberg.
Good afternoon. My name is Jackie Gillan. I appreciate the
opportunity to testify on such an important safety issue on
behalf of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Motorcoach safety is a serious concern for anyone who uses
this growing and affordable mode of transportation. Every day
millions of Americans are boarding buses at risk because of
chronic and continuing failures to upgrade the safety design of
motorcoaches, to provide adequate safety oversight of the
industry, and to give consumers the essential information they
need about the safety record of motorcoach companies.
Motorcoaches are really the over-the-road commuter airlines
without the strong Federal safety standards that protect you
and your family when flying. According to DOT data, a total of
571 people died in 400 motorcoach crashes in the last 11 years,
including motorcoach occupants, people in other vehicles, and
pedestrians. And in fact, I have attached to my testimony a
chart describing over 100 motor crashes from around the
We know what to do to protect passengers and prevent
motorcoach crashes. However, the Department of Transportation
just does not seem to want to do it. For more than 40 years,
the National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating
motorcoach crashes and issuing recommendations to improve
occupant safety and operations. These lifesaving
recommendations have largely been ignored or rejected at DOT.
For example, 40 years ago, NTSB recommended to DOT that
they consider seat belts on motorcoaches, and they have
repeated that recommendation throughout the years. Australia
has required three-point seat belts on motorcoaches for over 14
years. During that time, no one who was wearing a seat belt has
died or suffered any injury in a motorcoach crash. Seat belts
on motorcoaches are also now required in the European Union and
Other NTSB safety recommendations continue to take a back
seat at DOT. It is clear that Congress needs to pass Senate
bill 2326, the Motor Coach Enhanced Safety Act. This bill
directs DOT to act within reasonable deadlines on safety
improvements recommended in NTSB investigation, Inspector
General reports, and a host of GAO studies that have languished
Clearly, when Congress acts, DOT reacts. And I need to be
more specific on that. When the Senate Commerce Committee acts,
DOT reacts. It took Federal legislation to require air bags in
passenger vehicles, to direct Federal upgrades in tire safety
after the Firestone fiasco, and to mandate long overdue vehicle
safety standards and SAFETEA-LU to reduce the number of
rollover crashes that continue to kill and injure thousands
annually. Once again, this kind of Congressional leadership and
legislation is urgently needed.
S. 2326 requires DOT to issue safety standards that would
result in lap and shoulder belts, a stronger roof, and advanced
window glazing to protect occupants from ejection, and the use
of readily available crash avoidance technologies, such as
electronic stability control and adaptive cruise control. It
would also prevent deadly motorcoach fires by increasing the
fire resistance of interior materials, requiring automatic fire
suppression systems, as well as improving passenger evacuation
in an emergency.
The bill also mandates additional reforms to keep unsafe
drivers and companies off of our highways like required
training of motorcoach drivers, increased Federal and State
oversight and enforcement, and an issue that you have taken a
leadership role on, the installation of electronic on-board
recorders to help enforce Federal hours-of-service rules and
keep fatigued drivers off the road.
FMCSA has also failed to give consumers essential
information about the safety of motorcoach operators. A random
review of the safety ratings of motorcoach companies in New
Jersey and Texas were found to be incomplete, out of date,
misleading, or simply not available. Some safety ratings were
20 years old, Senator. Only a handful of companies in either
state had ratings that were current or complete.
When motorcoaches are stopped and inspected, the results
are also discouraging. For 2005, more than 1 out of 10
motorcoaches were placed out of service, a rate that has not
changed significantly over several years. Similarly,
inspections found that one out of five commercial drivers of
passenger-carrying motor carriers were placed out of service
for failing to keep updated log books on their driving hours.
In conclusion, Senator, every passenger on every motorcoach
trip in every state deserves to be safe. Too many lives are at
stake, and too few safety measures are being advanced at DOT,
and we cannot wait any longer. Advocates strongly recommends
that Congress enact S. 2326.
I also have with me, which I would like to submit for the
record, letters from nearly every single major highway and auto
and consumer safety group, as well as the supplier industry of
advanced glazing, showing their strong support for moving
quickly on this legislation.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Gillan follows:]
Prepared Statement of Jacqueline S. Gillan, Vice President,
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Good afternoon. My name is Jacqueline Gillan and I am Vice
President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), a
coalition of consumer, health, safety, medical organizations and
insurers working together to advance Federal and state programs and
policies that prevent deaths and injuries on our neighborhood streets
and highways. I commend the Subcommittee for holding hearings on the
safety of motorcoach operations.
This hearing today is another in a long series of oversight
hearings held by the Subcommittee because of its concern over the
quality of motor carrier safety. The Subcommittee held a hearing in May
1, 2007, to receive testimony on the value of Electronic On-Board
Recorders (EOBRs) and their important contribution to reducing
commercial driver fatigue. That hearing was extraordinarily important
because it showed how members of the motor carrier community have found
that EOBRs are not only valuable for keeping commercial drivers within
the limits of Federal hours of service regulations, but also help to
expedite freight delivery and conserve fuel, keep big trucks from using
illegal routes, and track motorcoaches in real-time to help ensure
Motorcoach safety is a serious concern for anyone who relies on and
uses this growing and affordable mode of transportation. Unfortunately,
when it comes to choosing a safe motorcoach, consumers have been forced
to travel wearing a blindfold. Many of us in this hearing room have put
our excited children on charter buses for out-of-town school field
trips and team sporting events, boarded motorcoaches to take part in
church and community outings, or waved goodbye to retired parents who
traveled by tour coach to vacation destinations. Some have even taken
advantage of low cost fares to travel between Washington, D.C., New
York or Boston on ``curbside'' buses that leave from downtown locations
rather than bus terminals.
Motorcoaches make 630 million passenger trips a year, and transport
hundreds of thousands of passengers each day, often carrying more
passengers--55 to 59 people when fully loaded--than most commuter
airline flights. Yet, motorcoach safety is not being held to the same
high safety standards as passenger aviation even though motorcoaches
operate on much more congested and less safe highways. Motorcoach
drivers are not required to meet the rigorous medical and safety
requirements of airline pilots; most of the vehicle safety design and
performance standards for passenger vehicles, especially for occupant
protection, are not required for motorcoaches; and motorcoach companies
are governed by the same weak, ineffectual safety oversight and
enforcement regime that is used for trucking freight.
Despite the widespread use of motorcoach transportation in our
everyday lives, the public is almost completely in the dark about the
safety of motorcoach transportation because of chronic and continuing
failures by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to
exercise its legal authority to regulate the safety of this industry,
and the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) to require the same basic safety improvements required for
smaller passenger vehicles to ensure the crash avoidance and
crashworthiness of buses and motorcoaches.\1\ These failures have
contributed to numerous tragic motorcoach crashes in just the last few
years, including several just last month, in August 2008.
My testimony today will address the safety problems and the
documented need to improve motorcoach safety; the means available to
provide improved occupant protection in motorcoach crashes and other
emergencies, such as fires; enhanced crash avoidance capabilities, and
the importance of strengthening Federal oversight of motorcoach
operations to ensure that unsafe motorcoach companies and drivers are
detected before they can do harm and are kept off the road.
Motorcoach Crashes Are Frequent and Deadly
Over the past four decades, the National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) has investigated nearly 70 motorcoach crashes and fires
that resulted in several hundred passenger deaths and many hundreds of
severe injuries. NTSB's motorcoach crash investigations over just the
last decade, 1998-2007, involved the deaths of 255 passengers and more
than one thousand injuries.\2\ In some of these incidents more than 20
people on board were killed in a single crash or fire. Not all
motorcoach crashes resulting in death and injury are investigated by
NTSB or any other agency at the Federal level. I have attached to my
testimony a list of the motorcoach crashes that Advocates has compiled
from the NTSB investigation reports and reliable newspaper and wire
service reports found on the Internet. But even this list, containing
over 100 motorcoach crashes and fires in the past 40 years, is far from
According to NHTSA data, there were 400 fatal motorcoach crashes
from 1994 through 2005 in which 571 people died.\3\ Of that total of
fatal crashes and associated deaths, 2005 was an especially tragic
year--70 motorcoach occupants died in crashes, the highest total ever
recorded. Data covering a much longer period of time, 1975 through
2005, shows 1,107 fatal crashes involving 1,117 motorcoaches and
resulting in 1,486 deaths to passengers in motorcoaches, people in
other vehicles and pedestrians.\4\
Motorcoach crashes kill and injure occupants inside the
motorcoaches and people outside as well. That is why it is crucially
important to have a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to motorcoach
safety that emphasizes major safety countermeasures for motorcoach
occupant protection, as well as dramatic improvements in motorcoach
crash avoidance capabilities that will ensure that these big, heavy
vehicles provide crash protection to the motorcoach occupants while
also reducing both the number and the severity of collisions with other
Recent Motorcoach Crashes Illustrate Severe Safety Risks
In just the past 3 years there have been constant reminders of the
safety perils in motorcoach travel. Moreover, three severe motorcoach
crashes occurred over a span of less than 3 days only a few weeks ago.
On August 8, 2008, a motorcoach with 54 passengers, operated by a
company, Angel Tours, Inc. restarted its motorcoach business under a
different name, Iguala Busmex, only 3 days after it had been judged an
``imminent hazard'' by FMCSA and prohibited from providing
transportation services. In a catastrophic crash, the Iguala Busmex
motorcoach broke through a guardrail in rural Grayson County, Texas and
plummeted from an overpass into a dry creek bed in a rollover crash
that resulted in 17 people dead and 38 injured. Angel Tours, Inc., had
been stopped by FMCSA from operating only 6 weeks earlier, on June 23,
2008. The new business named Iguala Busmex, according to preliminary
information in media reports, had no insurance and had no Federal
interstate operating authority.
By the time the crash occurred, the owner of Angel Tours had
changed the company name to Iguala Busmex and continued to operate
illegally. The new company even used the same business address to
restart operations. FMCSA was unaware that Angel Tours, Inc., had
transformed into the rogue motorcoach company, Iguala Busmex. In fact,
the company had no legal authority to provide motorcoach transportation
services for compensation even within the state of Texas. In far too
many cases, motor carriers both of passengers and of freight are
ordered to stop operations for safety reasons, but then restart their
businesses under different company names, leaving law enforcement
officials with the task of identifying and proving which companies are
conducting illegal operations. Sometimes, as in the Sherman, Texas
crash, Federal authorities find this out only after a tragic crash,
when deaths and severe injuries have already occurred.
The motorcoach in the Sherman, Texas, crash was operated by a
driver who had no valid medical certificate. FMCSA had also determined
prior to its ``cease operations'' order that Angel Tours was using a
driver without the company having received a pre-employment report, a
Federal requirement. Angel Tours also failed to require drivers to
prepare vehicle inspection reports. In addition, the motorcoach was
fitted with retreaded tires on the front steer axle, another Federal
regulatory violation. It appears that this illegal tire suddenly failed
and destabilized the motorcoach, making it difficult to control and
facilitating its crash into the overpass guardrail.
On August 10, 2008, a casino motorcoach operated by Harrah's
Entertainment packed with 43 tourists rolled over in a highway
intersection in northwestern Mississippi. The roof of the motorcoach
collapsed and its windows were shattered. Three passengers died and 27
were injured, one in critical condition.
Another casino motorcoach crash occurred on I-15 near Primm,
Nevada, on August 10, 2008, the same day that the Harrah motorcoach
rolled over. Luckily, no one died in this crash, but 29 people of the
30 people on board were injured, three of them critically. This was the
second motorcoach crash involving casino workers between Las Vegas and
Primm. Previously, a crash injured at least 25 people before the
motorcoach burst into flames and was destroyed on January 17, 2008.
Once again, it appears that there may have been a problem of tire tread
separation that could have triggered the rollover crash.
These cases, even without the benefit of a thorough crash
investigation, point out two serious safety problems. First, in the
Sherman, Texas crash, the illegal operation of the company is an
extremely serious issue, especially in light of the company history of
safety problems. Unfortunately, FMCSA currently has authority only to
impose fines for such conduct. Criminal penalties are not available for
such illegal operation but are clearly appropriate where the company
owners and officers neglect safety and take such intentional actions in
defiance of legal orders.
Second, although there are many safety issues and factors in these
crashes that will be investigated, it appears that tire tread
separation may have been a major contributing factor to both the Angel
Tours and Primm, Nevada, crashes. Although retreaded tires are allowed
by FMCSA on the other, non-steering axles of motorcoaches, and on
tractor-trailer rigs and straight (single-unit) trucks operated in
interstate commerce, there are no Federal standards administered by
NHTSA specifying the quality and safety performance of retreaded tires
on commercial motor vehicles. At the present time, there are only
voluntary industry standards. Advocates asked the agency more than a
decade ago to adopt such standards to ensure that retreated, recapped,
and regrooved commercial motor vehicle tires met the same safety
performance requirements as new tires. However, NHTSA has failed to put
forward any proposal to adopt a performance standard for retreaded
tires on motorcoaches and other commercial vehicles.
Bluffton University Motorcoach Crash
On March 2, 2007, a motorcoach hired to transport the Bluffton
University baseball team from Ohio to Georgia vaulted a bridge parapet
after taking a left exit ramp that led to a perpendicular entrance to
an overpass above I-75 in Atlanta, Georgia. The vehicle struck the
bridge parapet at right angles and plunged to the roadway below the
ramp. Of the 35 passengers and a driver on board, seven were killed and
several others, including the coach of the school's baseball team, were
transported to the hospital with severe injuries. Twelve of the
motorcoach's occupants were ejected, four through the windshield or
left front side windows even before the motorcoach left the roadway,
and six passengers were ejected through the left side windows when the
vehicle slammed into I-75, the impact that stopped its fall.
None of the occupants on-board had three-point safety belts
available to restrain them. Of the 59 seats on board, only the driver's
seat, the ``jump seat,'' and the first row of two passenger seats
immediately behind the driver had two-point lap belts. The driver and
his wife, both of whom had fastened their lap belts, died.
The company that operated the over-the-road bus, Executive Coach,
received a Satisfactory safety rating from FMCSA on April 4, 2007, only
a month following crash. However, NTSB's findings and recommendations
produced by its investigation listed several major deficiencies in
motorcoach operating safety.\5\ The vehicle issues identified by NTSB
included the lack of interior occupant impact protection; the ease with
which unrestrained passengers were ejected through large side windows;
and FMCSA's inadequate motor carrier driver oversight. The driver
issues included the fact that the motorcoach driver's medical
certification had expired, the driver's logbook clearly had been
falsified, and that the driver had medical conditions and had taken
medications that may have impaired his ability to drive. Also, the
company that operated the motorcoach had no formal driver training
program, no written policies on driver procedures such as an emergency
response protocol for evacuation and other passenger safety needs, and
the company's alcohol and drug testing program did not comply with
It should be pointed out that motorcoaches in foreign countries
equip their vehicles with safety protection features not provided for
passengers in the United States. For example, the motorcoach that was
involved in the Atlanta, Georgia, crash only had a few lap belts in the
front seating positions and was not equipped with three-point lap/
shoulder belts. The same motorcoach built in Australia comes equipped
with three-point lap/shoulder seat belts at every seating position and
with seats and their floor anchors tested for maximum crash resistance.
Hurricane Rita Nursing Home Motorcoach Crash
On September 23, 2005, a motorcoach operated by Global Limo, Inc.,
carrying assisted living and nursing home residents fleeing the
imminent landfall of Hurricane Rita caught fire and exploded, initially
killing 24 of the 44 people on board who were residents and employees
of a Dallas-area home for seniors. Most of the residents of the senior
living facility had moderate to severe disabilities and were not able
to evacuate the motorcoach during the fire without assistance.
Evacuation involved concerted efforts by the nursing staff, rescue
personnel, and bystanders who were able to help the residents exit the
NTSB found that the motorcoach was operated in an unsafe manner and
that FMCSA oversight of motorcoach safety was lax. The major safety
issues identified through the NTSB investigation included poor fire
reporting information and inconsistent data in Federal crash data
bases; FMCSA's ineffective compliance review program; lack of adequate
emergency exits from motorcoaches; lack of fire resistant motorcoach
materials and designs; inadequate manufacturer maintenance information
on wheel bearing components; transportation of highly flammable,
pressurized aluminum cylinders; and poor safety procedures for the
emergency transportation of persons with special needs.\7\
While the driver of the Global Tours motorcoach possessed a Mexican
commercial driver's license, the Licencia Federal de Conductor (LFC),
he had not obtained a Texas-issued commercial driver's license (CDL),
even though the driver had been in the U.S. since at least February
2005. Drivers are required to apply for a Texas-issued CDL within 30
days after taking up residence in Texas. This means that the driver had
no legal CDL or federally-required commercial driver medical
certificate, nor had he complied with requirements to prove his
identity, provide a social security number, supply documentation of
vehicle registration and liability insurance, and surrender his LFC.
These are legal requirements for drivers that the company should have
ensured were being met. Also, the driver was unable to communicate in
English, relying on an interpreter for his post-crash interviews,
another violation of FMCSA regulations.\8\ According to NTSB, the
driver may have been fatigued at the time of the motorcoach fire. The
driver had violated multiple requirements of the FMCSA hours of service
regulations (HOS), including having failed to take a minimum of 8
consecutive hours off-duty before working or driving, and driving for
over 15 consecutive hours starting at 3 PM on September 22, 2005, until
the fire began at about 6 AM on September 23, 2005.
FMCSA conducted a compliance review (CR), the agency's method of
assessing the safety of a motor carrier,\9\ of the company on February
6, 2004, and found seven violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Regulations (FMCSR). Nevertheless, FMCSA issued a Satisfactory safety
rating to the motor carrier just 6 days later, even though the company
had multiple Out of Service (OOS) violations prior to the CR and more
driver OOS violations prior to the September 23, 2005, motorcoach fire.
An Unsatisfactory safety rating cannot be triggered unless violations
have occurred in both driver and vehicle categories.
According to NTSB in its report, the motorcoach itself was
evidently inadequately maintained. Inadequate lubrication of an axle on
the vehicle led to ``frozen'' bearings that generated extreme heat
that, in turn, triggered the fire. Fires on motorcoaches are started
from various sources, such as engine compartments, electrical wiring
and batteries, auxiliary heaters, and underinflated or failed tires.
Motorcoach fires consume many of the materials from which the vehicles
are manufactured, and are evidently a chronic problem, as admitted by
the former Administrator of FMCSA before the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit,
and Pipelines on March 2, 2006.\10\ In fact, motorcoach floors are
usually made of sheets of plywood.
Comprehensive Motorcoach Safety Improvements Are Stalled at DOT
From this brief review of just a few motorcoach crashes and fires,
it should be evident that motorcoach safety has not been a primary
focus of Federal agencies and is in dire need of regulatory action to
improve safety. The NTSB has been issuing safety recommendations to the
motorcoach industry and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and
its agencies for decades, but those recommendations essentially have
been ignored. Unfortunately, very few NTSB recommendations have been
implemented by NHTSA and FMCSA, and certainly not in the complete and
effective manner that NTSB recommended.
In the Bluffton University Motorcoach Crash Report, NTSB reviewed
the 40-year history of its frustrated attempts at achieving agency
action in accordance with multiple recommendations for motorcoach
drivers, passengers, vehicles, and operations. NTSB asserted that
``motorcoaches transport a substantial number of people traveling in a
single vehicle with a high exposure to crash risk,'' with other special
safety requirements, and that ``[t]hese factors demand that
motorcoaches meet the highest level of safety.'' \11\ NTSB also stated
in its findings and recommendations that NHTSA had unacceptably delayed
defining and acting on regulations for motorcoach occupant protection
safety performance standards, emphasizing that the traveling public in
motorcoach trips were inadequately protected during collisions,
especially in rollovers.\12\
For example, NTSB has repeatedly asked NHTSA to require stronger
seats and to mandate seat belt assemblies at every designated seating
position in motorcoaches. But NTSB finally had to close out these
recommendations with notations of ``Unsatisfactory Action'' because
NHTSA continually deflected NTSB's recommendations on requiring
stronger seats and mandating seat belts.\13\
But NTSB did not give up, despite NHTSA's endless inaction. Over
and over it beat the drum in support of occupant restraints with
successive reports on horrific motorcoach crashes where restraints
would have saved many lives. For decades NHTSA deflected every one of
those recommendations. There are many other examples of critical
motorcoach safety recommendations sent to NHTSA since 1968 that were
ignored--and the result was more deaths and injuries that could have
Similarly, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and its
successor agency, FMCSA, have also rebuffed many NTSB recommendations
over the years, despite evidence showing the need for major safety
countermeasures for existing passenger motor carriers and for
improvements in FMCSA enforcement. NTSB was frustrated with FMCSA's
enforcement scheme for motor carrier safety violations because the
agency would provide Satisfactory ratings to motor carriers even if
they had several serious driver or vehicle violations. FMCSA's policy
is that there must be violations in both areas to trigger an
Unsatisfactory rating that could result in a company ordered to stop
operations. But NTSB recommended that serious violations in either area
should be enough to trigger imposition of an Unsatisfactory rating.
(Note that Angel Tours before the Sherman, Texas crash had a
Satisfactory rating because FMCSA had recorded several driver
violations, but no vehicle violations for the company. Accordingly,
FMCSA had no basis for threatening the company with an Unsatisfactory
FMCSA has repeatedly avoided acting on this recommendation, even
after several U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General and Government
Accountability Office reports demonstrating multiple weaknesses in
FMCSA enforcement regimes and actions.\14\
Since FMCSA itself has admitted that its current safety rating
system, and the safety scoring system used to support it, is
inadequate, the question arises of what the agency intends to do in the
interim to ensure that dangerous motor carriers are detected and
stopped from operating before more lives are lost. The agency cannot
wait until its new safety rating system, Comprehensive Safety Analysis
2010, is complete and ready for action. In the meantime, unsafe
motorcoach companies will receive ratings that do not represent a valid
safety profile, and the public will be left in the dark on how to
choose a safety motorcoach business for personal transportation.
Federal Legislation Is Needed to Direct DOT to Implement Comprehensive
Motorcoach Safety Reforms and Comply with NTSB Recommendations
It is time for Congress to step in and ensure that the safety
improvements NTSB has recommended for decades are adopted by the
agencies with the authority to issue motor vehicle and motor carrier
regulations. Experience has shown that when Congress requires safety
action, the agencies find the ways and means to meet the challenge.
Several years ago, the Senate Commerce Committee took a leadership role
in addressing deadly rollover crashes and other major motor vehicle
safety issues. In the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient
Transportation Equity Act of 2005--A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU),\15\
Congress required NHTSA to issue regulations on safety problems that
had languished for years without agency action. NHTSA is in the process
of complying with those vehicle safety rulemaking requirements. More
recently, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of
2007,\16\ requires NHTSA to issue rules on safety problems to protect
children from dangers in vehicles that the agency had previously
refused to address.
There is absolutely no doubt that when Congress sets the safety
agenda, the Federal agencies respond quickly by developing action
plans, conducting tests, and issuing rules that improve transportation
safety. This is the model that Congress should follow for motorcoach
The right vehicle to accomplish this approach has already been
introduced in Congress--The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2007.
This pending legislation, S. 2326, introduced on November 8, 2007, by
Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), and its
companion bill in the House, H.R. 6747, introduced by Representative
John Lewis (D-GA) and co-sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX),
sets a reasonable and achievable regulatory safety agenda for reforming
motorcoach safety. The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act deals with each
of the major aspects of motorcoach safety: vehicle design and
performance, operating safety and inspection, and driver safety,
including training and medical certification.
The bills respond to virtually every major safety recommendation
made over the past 40 years by the NTSB. The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety
Act addresses almost all NTSB safety issues in a comprehensive manner,
including crash protection of occupants, such as seat belts and windows
that prevent occupant ejection in crashes; protection against roof
crush, especially catastrophic single-vehicle events involving
rollovers; improved fire protection and the need to use materials and
technology to assist in fire resistance and suppression; better methods
to facilitate passenger evacuation in emergency conditions; crash
avoidance technology, such as adaptive cruise control and electronic
stability control to prevent crashes; vehicle maintenance and
inspection needs; and operator qualifications, including driver skills
and medical certification. Finally, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act
sets reasonable timelines for DOT, NHTSA and FMCSA to review the safety
problems, complete testing, conduct rulemaking and issue safety rules
to implement those recommendations so that lives can be saved and
injuries prevented as soon as possible.
S. 2326, the Senate-introduced version of the Motorcoach Enhanced
Safety Act, is supported by parents and relatives of victims and
survivors of motorcoach crashes. Many family members who lost relatives
in motorcoach crashes have traveled to Capitol Hill for today's
hearing. S. 2326 is also strongly supported by Advocates and safety
groups, including Public Citizen, Center for Auto Safety, Citizens for
Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Consumers for Auto Reliability and
Safety, the Trauma Foundation, the Consumer Federation of America and
the Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association.
The DOT agencies with responsibility for motorcoach safety, NHTSA
and FMCSA, have failed to fulfill their safety missions. Although NHTSA
has not moved quickly to adopt NTSB recommendations for crash
protection and crash avoidance, the agency has in recent years
developed a motorcoach safety research and testing program and has
begun to examine many of the safety issues raised by NTSB and safety
organizations. However, without a Congressional directive to actually
issue safety standards, there is no assurance that the agency will
address all the safety issues in the NTSB recommendations, much less
establish stringent safety standards that adopt those recommendations
in a timely manner.
FMCSA, in contrast, has been entirely delinquent in its role as the
Federal administrator of safe motorcoach operations. As with its duties
to improve general motor carrier safety, FMCSA has failed to issue or
properly enforce even the most basic safety requirements and has shown
no inclination to be proactive regarding the adoption of safety
standards and regulations to improve public safety on motorcoaches.
FMCSA only acts when compelled by explicit Congressional legislation,
and even then it fails frequently to comply with either the clear
letter of the law or to meet legislated deadlines. The safety community
has had to repeatedly sue FMCSA to compel the agency to comply with
Congressional mandates and issue effective regulations to improve key
areas of motor carrier safety.
While our testimony cannot survey all the safety provisions
addressed in these comprehensive bills, the remainder of this testimony
highlights the major gaps in motorcoach safety and how key provisions
of S. 2326 and H.R. 6747 will save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce
other motorcoach crash losses.
Motorcoach Occupant Protection is Inadequate and Contributes to Deaths
There are serious deficiencies with the crashworthiness features of
motorcoaches for protecting occupants against severe and fatal
injuries. In the 2007 Bluffton University motorcoach crash in Atlanta,
GA, and in many others investigated in the last several years by NTSB,
occupants were ejected through side windows and the windshield. Serious
injuries and deaths in motorcoach rollover crashes are highly
predictable when these vehicles do not have three-point seat belts and
fail to have the kind of windows that could withstand a crash and
prevent ejection. These severe occupant safety defects have been
documented time and again in NTSB investigations and reports.
While NHTSA has established 22 separate standards for vehicle
crashworthiness as part of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
(FMVSS) administered by the agency, nearly all of these are for light
motor vehicles (mainly passenger vehicles that weigh less than 10,000
pounds). Most of these standards exempt motorcoaches with gross vehicle
weight ratings of over 10,000 pounds. For example, no NHTSA safety
regulation requires that motorcoaches in the U.S. have any occupant
protection systems of any kind, including seat belts, seat mounting
retention, seatback strength, whiplash protection, or upper and lower
vehicle interior occupant impact protection. Although motorcoaches are
required to comply with FMVSS No. 217 specifying motorcoach window
retention and release for evacuation, and FMVSS No. 302 governing the
flammability of interior materials, motorcoaches do not have to comply
with many safety standards required for other types of buses, including
school buses, and for passenger vehicles. As a result, motorcoach
passengers are not afforded the same basic safety features and types of
protection required for passengers in other vehicles.
Among the important safety shortcomings that need to be improved in
motorcoaches, the Motorcoach Enhancement Safety Act would require:
Seat belts: Three-point lap/shoulder belt systems have been
required for passenger vehicles for decades and are required on
smaller buses and on big passenger vans, yet are not required
in motorcoaches. Lap/shoulder belt restraint systems, not just
lap belts, are essential for keeping motorcoach occupants in
their seats to avoid injuries sustained within the compartment
in all crash modes.
Rollover: Motorcoaches are very top heavy, with high centers
of gravity especially when fully laden with passengers, so
their rollover propensity is much higher than for passenger
vehicles. Crash avoidance technology such as electronic
stability control and adaptive cruise control can also help to
keep motorcoaches out of crashes in the first place. But when
rollovers still occur, a strong roof crush resistance safety
standard needs to be adopted to ensure the structural integrity
of the roof in a rollover crash that preserves occupant
survival space and prevents infliction of severe occupant
Ejection: A major safety issue in motorcoaches is preventing
occupants from being ejected during a crash, especially in a
rollover. According to NHTSA, more than half of the deaths in
motorcoach crashes are the result of occupant ejections. More
than one-third of all deaths of motorcoach occupants in
motorcoach crashes occur in rollovers, and occupant ejection is
the reason for 70 percent of occupant deaths in motorcoach
rollovers.\17\ Advanced window glazing that can survive crash
impacts will prevent occupant ejection and save lives. There
are other possible countermeasures, which, in combination with
three-point seat belts and advanced glazing, can further reduce
the chances of passenger ejection.
The major topics of occupant restraint within the motorcoach
passenger compartment and the additional prevention of ejection in
catastrophic events have been engaged by both the European Economic
Community \18\ and Australia.\19\ Three-point belts restraining
motorcoach occupants became mandatory in Australia 14 years ago, the
European Union has just mandated that passengers must wear safety belts
in motorcoaches beginning in May 2008, and anyone traveling by
motorcoach in Japan must use their safety belts beginning June 2008. It
is obvious that keeping motorcoach occupants safely in their seats is
desperately needed so that passengers do not impact each other, strike
unforgiving interior surfaces and equipment in motorcoaches, and are
prevented from being thrown from the vehicle. Three-point lap/shoulder
belt restraints initially are the best way to accomplish keeping each
passenger in their seat. The rest of the world is moving on to higher
levels of crash protection for motorcoach occupants while U.S. safety
regulators fail to take action.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act bill contains the provisions
necessary to direct NHTSA to dramatically improve motorcoach
crashworthiness in all crash modes, including rollovers, as well as in
side and frontal impacts. Without congressional directives requiring
the issuance of new and improved safety standards by specific dates,
NHTSA will intermittently study the safety issues over many years
without addressing the major motorcoach crashworthiness and crash
avoidance safety issues that NTSB long ago recommended should be
adopted. NHTSA has proven over and over that it will delay major safety
standards that can save lives and prevent injuries, not only for years,
but also for decades, unless Congress gives it a mandate in no
uncertain terms and firm deadlines for action.
Effective Motorcoach Operation Safety Oversight and Enforcement is
According to figures from FMCSA,\20\ there are about 3,700 U.S.
passenger-carrying companies conducting interstate operations employing
100,000 drivers to operate about 34,000 to perhaps 40,000
motorcoaches.\21\ Many of the Federal motor carrier safety regulations,
FMCSRs, that govern commercial motor carriers, vehicles, and drivers
generally, also apply to motor carriers of passengers. Despite the
relative small numbers of motorcoaches and motorcoach companies, FMCSA
is failing in its stewardship responsibilities for motorcoaches as
badly as it is for large trucks.
Almost all of NTSB's 40 years of investigated motorcoach crashes
have resulted in findings that encompass vehicle performance,
maintenance, inspection, driver qualifications, and motor carrier
company safety management. The examples of recent motorcoach crashes
provided earlier in this testimony confirm that multiple safety
problems afflict all aspects of interstate motorcoach operations.
Although severe motorcoach crashes often appear at first glance to be
the result of an isolated problem, in fact digging deeper almost always
reveals multiple problems involving vehicle maintenance, driver
qualifications and performance capabilities, and company safety
management. NTSB has confirmed this multifactorial nature of motorcoach
crashes to be true in numerous crash investigations.
FMCSA has not only failed to adopt NTSB's safety recommendations,
the agency has also failed to issue other safety regulations needed to
improve motor carrier and motorcoach safety. As a result, major areas
of driver training and certification, motorcoach safety inspection,
data quality and systems for identifying potentially dangerous
motorcoach companies, and agency oversight and enforcement of the
FMCSRs are undeniably inadequate and have been documented repeatedly by
the U.S. DOT's OIG and by GAO. Key rulemaking actions to address these
and other issues languish year after year without action. The
Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act directs FMCSA to address major
deficiencies in its regulations governing driver qualifications,
vehicle safety condition, and motor carrier safety management.
Motor carrier safety issues that directly impact motorcoach
operating safety include:
Weak Federal and State Requirements for Motorcoach Driver
Among the many areas in the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act aimed at
improving motorcoach operational safety are provisions intended to
substantially strengthen motorcoach driver CDL testing and training
requirements. Motorcoach drivers are required to have CDLs with a
passenger endorsement added on the basis of another knowledge and
skills test. However, there are no substantive training requirements in
Federal law and regulation for entry-level commercial motor vehicle
drivers, and there are none for the additional endorsements for
operating hazardous materials vehicles, school buses, or motorcoaches.
In short, there is no specific Federal training requirement for an
interstate commercial driver transporting passengers.
Federal safety agencies spent over 20 years studying commercial
driver training issues, producing a Model Curriculum for training both
drivers and instructors and conducting rulemaking pursuant to Section
4007(a) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991
(ISTEA).\22\ Despite this long background of deep involvement in the
needs of commercial driver training, FMCSA did an abrupt about-face in
May 2004 and issued a final rule that avoided adopting any basic
knowledge and skills training requirements, including behind-the-wheel
driving instruction, for entry-level commercial drivers.\23\ Instead,
the agency published a regulation that only required drivers to gain
familiarity with four ancillary areas of CMV operation--driver
qualifications, hours of service requirements, driver health issues,
and whistleblower protection. Not only did FMCSA not require driver
training as a prerequisite for a candidate seeking an entry-level CDL,
the agency rule excused almost all novice drivers from even being
considered entry-level commercial drivers. This rulemaking outcome was
a complete reversal from earlier agency statements that the majority of
new commercial drivers were not receiving adequate training.
Since the FMCSA action reversed its own previous findings that
basic knowledge and skills entry-level driver training was inadequate
and should be required, Advocates filed suit against the agency. In a
unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia found that the final rule was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse
of agency discretion, and remanded the rule to FMCSA. Advocates for
Highway and Auto Safety v. FMCSA \24\ (Entry-Level Driver Training
Decision). In its opinion, the appellate court stated that the rule
``focuses on areas unrelated to the practical demands of operating a
commercial motor vehicle'' and that the rule was ``so at odds with the
record assembled by DOT that the action cannot stand.'' \25\
Incredibly, when FMCSA reopened rulemaking on commercial driver
training requirements in response to the adverse court decision on its
final rule, the agency did not propose a training curriculum
specifically designed for motorcoach operators.\26\ The curricula
content of the proposed rule is entirely oriented toward the operation
of trucks of different weights and configurations. The proposed rule
has no specific requirements anywhere just for motorcoach operators.
Further, in the December 2007 FMCSA proposed rule, the minimum
number of hours of training time for entry-level student drivers of
motorcoaches plummets to 120 hours for students wanting to operate
motorcoaches and other large commercial motor vehicles with ``Class B''
CDLs.\27\ There is no explanation anywhere in the preamble of the
proposed rule or in the appendix of why this specific number of
instructional hours was selected, nor why the amount of training was
severely abbreviated from the 320 or more hours recommended in the 1985
Advocates regards FMCSA's entry-level driver training requirements
for motorcoach drivers to be unspecific to the special tasks that
motorcoach operation imposes, as perfunctory in its requirements and
its safety impact, and as falling well short of what is needed. The
proposed rule does not fulfill either the Court of Appeals'
expectations or the agency's legislated responsibilities.
Substantively, the proposed curriculum fails to ensure that motorcoach
operators will be properly trained in the multiple, significant safety
responsibilities the job demands. To add insult to injury, the proposed
rule also would impose a 3-year moratorium on requiring compliance with
training requirements for new CDL applicants.\28\ This action would
exclude tens of thousands of new CDL applicants from badly needed
knowledge and skills training requirements.
Tougher Enforcement Needed: Compliance Reviews and Roadside
Inspections Do Not Remove Dangerous Motorcoach Companies From
A central problem undermining agency effectiveness in overseeing
motor carrier safety and reducing FMCSR violations is the annually low
numbers and percentage of both roadside inspections and CRs. For
example, the Bluffton University Motorcoach Crash that took seven lives
and inflicted severe injuries involved a motorcoach company that had a
Satisfactory safety rating assigned 6 years earlier, in January 2001.
Similarly, the company that operated the motorcoach that crashed in
Sherman, Texas last month killing 17 people, was awarded a Satisfactory
safety rating despite the fact that the company had received repeated
driver OOS orders. The truth is that a Satisfactory safety rating is no
assurance of contemporary operating safety fitness.
The implementing regulations for conducting CRs specify criteria
for assigning one of three safety rating categories to a motor carrier:
Satisfactory, Conditional, Unsatisfactory.\29\ FMCSA is required by law
to issue a safety rating to all motor carriers.\30\ However, the agency
basically decided long ago that it would no longer attempt to fulfill
the statutory requirement.\31\ Even without attempting to assign safety
ratings to all motor carriers, FMCSA conducts CRs on only a tiny
percentage of carriers. Barely 1 percent of motor carriers receive a CR
each year, and only a tiny part of 1 percent of all registered motor
carriers are given Unsatisfactory ratings. On its face, it is
improbable that assigning Unsatisfactory safety ratings to so few
registered interstate carriers has any deterrent effect.
Other organizations and agencies have for many years called for
improvements to the safety rating process. For example, NTSB's current
list of the Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements--Federal
Issues \32\ argues that the entire safety fitness regime operates too
leniently with criteria that do not result frequently enough in motor
carriers being shut down or drivers having their licenses revoked.
In testimony delivered before the House Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit, and Pipelines,
March 20, 2007, the FMCSA Administrator boasted that FMCSA had
dramatically increased the number of motorcoach CRs over the preceding
2 years. However, based on Advocates' sampling of states on FMCSA's
website, many of the motorcoach companies receiving recent CRs are
provided Satisfactory safety ratings even though they lack any safety
rating scores in one or more of the four Safety Evaluation Areas (SEAs)
that form part of the arcane system the agency uses to identify high
safety risk motor carriers. In fact, some motorcoach companies in the
past have been awarded Satisfactory safety ratings with no safety
scores for any of the four categories. In addition, high percentages of
unrated motorcoaches are still listed for many states on FMCSA
Consumers Denied Essential, Lifesaving Information on
FMCSA's passenger motor carrier website claims that it provides
information on motorcoach companies so that consumers can be confident
that they are choosing safe motorcoach companies. How does that claim
hold up under close examination?
A review of the current status of safety ratings of motorcoaches
registered in Texas is not very encouraging. There are 197 motorcoach
companies with FMCSA interstate operating numbers. Of those, 117, or 59
percent, have Satisfactory ratings. All the rest of the companies have
either Conditional ratings, are Unrated (64), or, in one instance, one
company has an Unsatisfactory rating (Angel Tours/Iguala Busmex). But
one company's Satisfactory rating was awarded back in 1988--20 years
ago. Furthermore, of the 117 Satisfactory companies, only 17, or 14.5
percent, have safety scores in all four major areas of safety. And it
should be stressed that a Satisfactory rating for FMCSA only means that
a motorcoach company minimally complies with the Federal safety
standards for motor carriers--it is not a mark of superior safety.
Similarly, consumers in New Jersey have little to choose from in
selecting a motorcoach company with the best safety credentials for
long-distance trips. There are 167 companies headquartered in New
Jersey that are registered with FMCSA for interstate transportation of
passengers. However, 57 of these businesses--34 percent or fully one-
third--have no safety ratings at all. Eight companies are operating
with Conditional safety ratings. No companies have Unsatisfactory
One hundred and one (101) New Jersey motorcoach companies carry
Satisfactory safety ratings. But one company received its Satisfactory
rating back in 1988, two got theirs in 1991, and there are several
others with Satisfactory ratings assigned during the 1990s. It is
important to recognize that a safety rating, even a Satisfactory
rating, is just a snapshot of a company. A company's safety practices
can quickly deteriorate so that a Satisfactory rating can become
meaningless in a short amount of time. Many companies can come into
compliance to achieve a Satisfactory safety rating only to lapse in its
compliance with major motorcoach safety regulatory areas such as driver
qualifications and certification, vehicle safety maintenance, and
company safety management quality.
Of the 101 New Jersey motorcoach companies with Satisfactory
ratings, only 11 have scores in all four major safety scoring areas
(driver, vehicle, crash, safety management). Therefore, if a consumer
in New Jersey wants to apply a high standard for choosing a company, it
would be best to use a motorcoach company that has a Satisfactory
rating in all four safety scoring categories. But only 11 companies--or
a little over 6.5 percent--of motorcoach operations in the state
qualify. Based on Advocates' sampling of states on FMCSA's website,
this is the case with most states--the listing of active motorcoach
companies provided by FMCSA for each state, if rigorously evaluated by
a consumer, is dramatically reduced oftentimes to only a handful of
companies to choose from.
When motorcoaches are stopped and inspected, the results are
equally discouraging. For 2005, 12 percent of the motor carriers of
passengers were placed OOS, a figure that has not changed over several
years. Similarly, driver safety is a serious concern--driver
inspections in 2005 placed 21 percent of U.S. drivers of interstate
motor carriers of passengers OOS for failing to retain the driver's
previous 7 day logbook showing the driver's record of duty. In the same
vein, 20 percent of those drivers--one in five--were found to have no
record of duty status logbook. These aggregate figures are frightening,
especially for patrons of interstate motorcoach companies, and they
show essentially no progress in substantially improving motorcoach
safety on a nationwide basis.
Unknown Status and Effectiveness of State Annual Bus Safety
The Secretary of Transportation is required to prescribe standards
for annual, or more frequent, inspection of commercial motor vehicles,
including motorcoaches, or approve equally effective state inspection
programs.\34\ Nine years ago last month, the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) issued a notice on the status of state bus
inspection programs \35\ and subsequently listed 25 of 50 states with
approved, equivalent periodic inspection programs.\36\
It should be stressed here that the minimum period for the required
vehicle inspection is only once a year.\37\ Since it is well known that
inspection of CMVs, including motorcoaches, needs to be much more
intensive and frequent than for personal or light motor vehicles, a
once-a-year inspection regime is clearly no guarantee of safe
motorcoaches. Many companies even in states that have bus inspection
programs can come into compliance just for an annual inspection, only
to allow major safety features of their motorcoaches to fall into
disrepair or become inoperative soon after passing the annual
inspection. Moreover, Advocates could find no information from FMCSA's
website on the effectiveness of state motorcoach inspection programs to
detect safety problems or how well or for how long state motorcoach
inspection programs ensure compliance with all Federal motor carrier
Several provisions in the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act directly
address the issue of timely, accurate motorcoach and bus safety
inspections, including both FMCSA and state actions that are necessary,
and how FMCSA must administer the state inspection programs in
connection with the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP).
Electronic On-Board Recorders Are Long Overdue on Motorcoaches and All
Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) or Automatic On-Board
Recording Devices (AOBRDs) have been increasingly used on large trucks
and motorcoaches for a variety of purposes, including monitoring the
drivers' hours of service (HOS) driving, working, and off-duty time of
commercial drivers, and ensuring compliance with current HOS
regulations. Many countries around the world now require the use of
EOBRs to ensure that truck drivers comply with the limits of each
nation's HOS. Currently, all European Union countries, along with
Turkey, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Venezuela, and Singapore,
require automated recording devices to monitor driver hours of service
EOBRs can automatically record the hours that commercial operators
drive trucks and motorcoaches in interstate commerce. EOBRs can also
link with engines, transmissions, and global positioning system (GPS)
devices to record the distance and speed a commercial motor vehicle has
traveled and whether it has used an illegal route or traversed a
weight-posted bridge. Motor carriers that have voluntarily installed
EOBRs are still only a small percentage of commercial motor vehicles,
but motor carriers that use EOBRs praise the advantages they provide in
terms of safety and efficiency since they eliminate the need for paper
logbooks. This was stressed by a motor carrier industry witness in last
year's hearing on EOBRs conducted by this Subcommittee.\38\
Commercial driver fatigue is a major safety problem for both
motorcoach operators and truck drivers. EOBRs are especially crucial to
raising the level of motorcoach safety by ensuring that well-rested,
alert drivers are in charge of the safety and lives of up to 58
passengers onboard. EOBRs can ensure that drivers do not exceed maximum
shift driving time and that they take the required off-duty rest time
to restore their performance at the wheel. Moreover, EOBRs on
interstate motorcoaches permit real-time monitoring of the routing and
location of a motorcoach so that, in the event of a serious event such
as a crash or fire, expeditious response by emergency medical personnel
and enforcement authorities can make a substantial difference in the
number of deaths and severe, disabling injuries that result from these
However, despite widespread, chronic violation of HOS limits by
commercial drivers, FMCSA in early 2007 proposed a very weak regulation
that will require virtually no motor carriers to install EOBRs on big
trucks and buses.\39\ The proposed rule would use EOBRs as a punishment
for motor carriers that fail two consecutive CRs. In fact, only a
minute number of companies--less than one-tenth of one percent--would
be required to install EOBRs if that proposal is adopted. It is clear
that FMCSA is openly avoiding the need to ensure that commercial
drivers adhere to current HOS regulations limiting driving and working
time, and ensuring minimum off-duty rest periods.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act includes a provision to require
EOBRs. Without a specific direction from Congress to FMCSA, the agency
will not require EOBRs on all interstate commercial motor vehicles, to
the detriment of safety.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Passenger transportation safety by over-the-road motorcoaches is
not held to the high safety standards of commercial passenger aviation.
Motorcoach crashes can take many lives in a single event and inflict
severe injuries on numerous passengers. NTSB's studies and crash
reports document the deadly outcome of a catastrophic motorcoach crash,
and its safety recommendations provide solutions that will dramatically
improve motorcoach safety. Because DOT and the safety agencies have not
implemented recommended safety countermeasures, despite having had
ample opportunity to do so and reams of supporting evidence, Congress
must take action to increase the level of motorcoach safety and improve
the quality of Federal and state oversight.
Advocates recommends that the Subcommittee embrace the Motorcoach
Enhanced Safety Act of 2007, S. 2326. This legislation will jumpstart
motorcoach safety by putting numerous safety improvements on reasonable
timelines for U.S. DOT rulemaking action. The outcome in just several
years would be fewer motorcoach crashes with fewer injuries and deaths.
We further recommend, however, that additional provisions be added
to S. 2326 to address the need for the imposition of criminal penalties
for persons who illegally continue to operate a motor carrier after
having been ordered to cease operations, to establish a performance
standard for retreaded tires used on commercial motor vehicles, and to
require event data recorders (EDRs) on motorcoaches to assist crash
investigators in reconstructing how and why each motorcoach crash
occurs. NTSB has repeatedly called for EDRs as critically important to
passenger transportation safety.\40\
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this information to the
Subcommittee on a major safety problem. We at Advocates look forward to
working with the Subcommittee and the full Committee on these issues,
and I am prepared to respond to any questions you may have.
\1\ Although Advocates' testimony centers on over-the-road
motorcoaches, much of our critique of motorcoach safety design,
operating safety, and agency oversight also applies to other types of
buses and to some passenger-carrying vans that fall under the
jurisdiction of both FMCSA and NHTSA.
\2\ Motorcoach Override of Elevated Exit Ramp Interstate 75,
Atlanta, Georgia, March 2, 2007, Appendix C, National Transportation
Safety Board Accident Report HTSB/HAR-08/01, July 8, 2008 (Bluffton
University Motorcoach Crash Report).
\3\ Data supplied in special data run performed by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) National Center for
Statistics and Analysis (NCSA).
\5\ Bluffton University Motorcoach Crash Report.
\6\ Title 49 CFR 382.305.
\7\ Motorcoach Fire On Interstate 45 During Hurricane Rita
Evacuation Near Wilmer Texas, September 23, 2005.
\8\ Title 49 CFR 391.11(b)(2).
\9\ See, 49 CFR Pt. 385 for a description of FMCSA's safety rating
\10\ http://testimony.ost.dot.gov/test/Sandberg1.htm, May 2, 2006.
\11\ Bluffton University Motorcoach Crash Report at 52.
\12\ Id. at 54.
\13\ For example, see NTSB's recommendation H-71-35 that was closed
out on October 29, 1975.
\14\ See, e.g., Commercial Motor Vehicles: Effectiveness of Actions
Being Taken to Improve Motor Carrier Safety Is Unknown. Report to the
Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and Relative Agencies,
Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, GAO/RCED-001-89
(July 2000); Significant Improvements in Motor Carrier Safety Program
Since 1999 Act but Loopholes for Repeat Violators Need Closing, OIG
Report Number MH2006-046, April 21, 2006; Improvements
Needed in Motor Carrier Safety Status Measurement System, OIG Report
Number MH-2004-034, (Feb. 2004); A Statistical Approach Will Better
Identify Commercial Carriers That Pose High Crash Risks Than Does the
Current Federal Approach, GAO-07-585 (June 2007); Motor Carrier Safety:
Federal Safety Agency Identifies Many High-Risk Carriers but Does Not
Assess Maximum Fines as Often as Required by Law, GOA-07-584 (Aug.
\15\ Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity
for the Twenty-First Century: A Legacy for Users, Pub. L. 109-59 (Aug.
\16\ Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007,
Pub. L. 110-189 (Feb. 28, 2008).
\17\ NHTSA's Approach to Motorcoach Safety, Aug. 6, 2007.
\18\ E. Mayrhofer, H. Steffan, H. Hoschopf, Enhanced Coach and Bus
Occupant Safety, Paper 05-0351, Graz University of Technology Vehicle
Safety Institute, Austria, 2005.
\19\ M. Griffiths, M. Paine, R. Moore, Three Point Seat Belts on
Coaches--The First Decade in Australia, Queensland Transport,
Australia, Abstract ID -5-0017, 2005. The authors report that, since
1994 when 3-point belts were required in motorcoaches, several serious
crashes have occurred, no belted coach occupant has received either
fatal or disabling injuries.
analysis-statistics/cmvfacts.htm. There are no separate figures for
motorcoaches provided, but the United Motorcoach Association estimates
that there are probably about 45,000 to 50,000 commercial over-the-road
motorcoaches in the U.S. There is, in addition, an unknown number of
``private'' motorcoaches such as those used for schools, church groups,
and other organizations, some of which are interstate and must conform
to most Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. It is difficult to
reconcile these figures with those from FMCSA (see, the text and
footnote below) and the figures provided by the American Bus
Association in its Motorcoach Census 2005: Second Benchmarking Study of
the Motorcoach Industry in the United States and Canada, September
2006, in which it is stated that in 2004 the industry consisted of
3,500 companies operating nearly 40,000 motorcoaches.
\21\ See, Statement of John Hill, Administrator, Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration, before the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit,
and Pipelines, March 20, 2007. Also, see, http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/
there are substantial discrepancies throughout FMCSA's website on the
number of passenger carriers. For example, one page providing figures
states that there were 5,211 passenger carriers registered with the
agency as of 2006. http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/facts-
figures/analysis-statistics/cmvfacts.htm. There is no explanation of
what kinds of passenger carriers this includes.
\22\ Pub. L. 102-240, 105 Stat. 1914 (Dec. 18, 1991).
\23\ 69 FR 29384 et seq., May 21, 2004.
\24\ 429 F.3d 1136 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
\25\ Id. at 3-4.
\26\ 72 FR 73226 (Dec. 26, 2007).
\27\ 72 FR 73227-73228.
\28\ Id. at 73231-73232.
\29\ The most recent statement of the governing regulations for
determining safety fitness is the FMCSA final rule of August 22, 2000
(65 FR 50919), which was a response to the increased stringency of
safety fitness requirements enacted in Section 4009 of TEA-21 that
amended 49 U.S.C. 31144, originally enacted by Section 215 of the
Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (Pub. L. 98-554). This final rule
amended the regulations for safety fitness determinations in 49 CFR
Pts. 385 and 386. Pt. 385 contains the controlling criteria for making
safety fitness determinations and Pt. 386 contains the rules of
practice for the agency controlling the issuance of CR ratings,
petitions, hearings, orders, and other administrative machinery for
conducting the oversight and enforcement programs of FMCSA. It should
also be noted that FMCSA recognizes that its administrative selection
of the three rating categories of safety fitness, Satisfactory,
Conditional, and Unsatisfactory, has been legislatively enshrined
through explicit mention and use of the three ratings in Section 15(b)
of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1990. 49 U.S.C. 31144.
\30\ Section 215 of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 requires
the Secretary to maintain, by regulation, a procedure for determining
the safety fitness of an owner or operator of commercial motor
vehicles. 49 U.S.C. 31144.
\31\ Motor Carrier Safety Program, DOT Office of Inspector General,
Report Number AS-FH-7-006, March 26, 1997. The goal of assigning safety
ratings to all motor carriers by September 30, 1992, was a self-imposed
target by FHWA that could not be attained, as pointed out in the GAO
report of January 1991, Truck Safety: Improvements Needed in FHWA's
Motor Carrier Safety Program, Report No. GAO/RCED-91-30. At the time of
GAO's preparation of this report, FHWA had not rated about 60 percent
of interstate motor carriers. As GAO points out in this report, the
agency decided that its safety oversight resources would be better
spent than attempting to safety rate all motor carriers in accordance
with legislative requirements. On October 1, 1994, FHWA discontinued
safety reviews to assess unrated motor carriers.
\32\ See, http://www.ntsb.gov/Recs/mostwanted/truck_safety.htm. As
previously mentioned, NTSB recommends that if a carrier receives an
Unsatisfactory rating for either the vehicle factor or the driver
factor, that alone should trigger a pending Unsatisfactory rating.
According to NTSB, this recommendation ha been reissued annually since
199, but FMCSA does not plan full implementation of any changes to its
safety rating system and other oversight processes until 2010 at the
\34\ Title 49 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 396; Sec. 210
of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (49 U.S.C. 31142).
\35\ 63 FR 8516 et seq., February 19, 1998.
\36\ 66 FR 32863 (June 18, 2001).
\37\ Section 210, Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984, op. cit.,
codified at 49 U.S.C. 31142.
\38\ ``Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) and Truck Driver
Fatigue Reduction,'' Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, U.S. Senate, May 1, 2007.
\39\ 72 FR 2340 (Jan. 18, 2007).
\40\ See, NTSB Recommendation H-99-53, reissued as one of the NTSB
recommendations in the recently published report on the motorcoach
crash of the Bluffton University baseball team, ``Motorcoach Override
of Elevated Exit Ramp Interstate 75, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2, 2007,''
This list contains 101 motorcoach crashes including many incidents
investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and
examples of other serious motorcoach crashes that have been publicly
reported in the national media. In some cases specific dates are not
available. NHTSA data reflects that 1,117 motorcoaches have been
involved in crashes between 1975 and 2005, but specific information is
not available for each individual crash.
Date of Crash Location Description
August 10, 2008 Primm, NV Motorcoach rolled off the
road after experiencing
tire failure. 29
passengers were injured.
August 10, 2008 Tunica, MS Motorcoach overturned on a
median, killing 3
passengers. The roof
partially collapsed in
the rollover. No cause
determined as of yet.
August 8, 2008 Sherman, TX Motorcoach carrying 55
passengers crashed after
blowing a tire and
skidding off of the
highway, hitting a
guardrail and coming to
rest on its side. 14
people were killed, and
40 were injured. NTSB is
blowout contributed to
the crash. The Sherman PD
released a report that
also claimed that faulty
evasive action at the
time of the blowout
contributed to the crash.
January 17, 2008 Primm, NV Motorcoach ran off the
highway, struck a
overturned. The fuel
tanks were breached, and
the bus caught on fire.
No fatalities, 25
passengers were injured.
No cause determined as of
January 7, 2008 Mexican Hat, UT Motorcoach carrying 51
passengers ran off a
curvy road, rolled
several times, and the
roof was split open. The
tires were stripped off.
Passengers were thrown
from the bus, and 9 were
killed. The contributing
factor was the driver's
negotiation of the turn.
January 2, 2008 Victoria, TX Motorcoach carrying
passengers from Mexico
ran off the road,
overcorrected and rolled
over, killing one
passenger. Driver fatigue
could be a factor in the
January 2, 2008 Henderson, NC Motorcoach collided with a
tractor-trailer when it
failed to slow down when
the truck was making a
left turn. The bus ran
off the road, down an
embankment and onto its
side. 50 passengers were
June 25, 2007 Bowling Green, KY Motorcoach veered off the
road and hit an overpass,
killing two passengers
and injuring 66. The
driver apparently dozed
off while driving.
March 2, 2007 Atlanta, GA Motorcoach carrying
baseball team crashed
through an overpass
bridge wall and fell 19
feet onto Interstate 75
landing on its side.
occupants were killed and
21 injured. NTSB found
that the lack of an
contributed to the
severity of the crash.
May 20, 2007 Clearfield, PA NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 2
passengers killed, 25
Sept. 6, 2006 Auburn, MA NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 34
August 28, 2006 Westport, NY NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 4
passengers killed, 48
March 30, 2006 Houston, TX Motorcoach carrying girls'
soccer team was trying to
avoid debris falling from
a tractor- trailer when
it lost control on
slippery pavement and
passengers were killed.
The Texas Department of
Public Safety cited the
for improperly securing
the load and the bus
driver for faulty evasive
action. NTSB found that
passenger restraints and
windows on the bus could
have prevented some
October 25, 2005 San Antonio, TX Motorcoach crashed into
two 18-wheelers after its
tire was blown. The
driver was killed, and
two passengers and a
truck driver sustained
October 16, 2005 Osseo, WI NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 4
passengers killed, 35
Sept. 23, 2005 Wilmer, TX Motorcoach carrying 44
assisted living facility
residents and nursing
staff as part of the
anticipation of Hurricane
Rita caught fire. 23
passengers were fatally
injured. Of the 21
passengers who escaped, 2
were seriously injured
and 19 received minor
injuries, including the
motorcoach driver. NTSB
found that insufficient
lubrication in the right-
side tag axle wheel-
bearing assembly of the
motorcoach, resulting in
and subsequent failed
wheel bearings, led to
the catastrophic fire.
Lack of fire-retardant
and failure to conduct
routine maintenance were
contributing factors in
the severity of the
July 25, 2005 Baltimore, MD NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 33
January 29, 2005 Geneseo, NY NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 3
passengers killed, 20
Nov. 14, 2004 Alexandria, VA Motorcoach was
transporting 27 high
school students to Mount
Vernon, Virginia when it
collided with an
overpass. 10 passengers
received minor injuries
and another sustained
serious injury. NTSB
found that the bus
driver's failure to
notice and respond to
warning signs and driver
from talking on his hands-
free cellular telephone
while driving were the
causes of the crash.
October 9, 2004 Turrell, AR NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 14
passengers killed, 15
August 6, 2004 Jackson, TN NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 2
passengers killed, 18
May 24, 2004 Anahuac, TX Motorcoach collided with a
Feb. 22, 2004 North Hudson, NY NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 47
2004 Phoenix, AZ NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 1
passenger killed, 38
October 13, 2003 Tallulah, LA Motorcoach carrying 14
passengers struck a
passengers were killed,
the driver and 6 other
minor injuries, and the
driver of the tractor-
trailer was uninjured.
NTSB determined that the
cause was the driver's
reduced alertness caused
by fatigue as a result of
his chronic insomnia and
poor quality sleep. Also
contributing was the
failure of the motorcoach
Feb. 14, 2003 Hewitt, TX Motorcoach transporting 34
through a median and into
colliding with a sport
utility vehicle and a
pickup truck. The driver
and passenger of the SUV
and 5 motorcoach
minor to serious
injuries. NTSB found
probable cause of the
crash was state
authorities decision to
set a speed limit that
did not take into account
the roadway's limited
sight distance or its
poor conditions in wet
weather was. The lack of
a median barrier and an
system contributed to the
severity of the crash.
2003 Apache Co., AZ NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 44
October 1, 2002 Nephi, UT NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 6
passengers killed, 20
June 23, 2002 Victor, NY Motorcoach carrying 47
through the grassy area
between an exit ramp and
entrance ramp, dragging a
guardrail and coming to
rest on its right side.
The guardrail hit three
cars. 5 passengers were
killed, 41 passengers and
the driver sustained
minor injuries, and the
vehicle passengers had
minor injuries. NTSB
found that the cause of
the crash was due to the
driver falling asleep at
the wheel. A contributing
factor was the lack of
proper restraints for the
June 9, 2002 Loraine, TX Motorcoach carrying 37
passengers collided with
the back of a tractor-
trailer that entered the
highway from an entrance
ramp. Three passengers in
the front of the
motorcoach were killed, 5
passengers and the driver
were seriously injured,
24 passengers sustained
minor injuries. NTSB
found that the
acceleration by tractor-
trailer was the cause of
the crash. The driver of
the tractor-trailer was
also impaired by cocaine.
April 24, 2002 Kinder, LA Motorcoach drove into
telephone pole, killing
the driver and 4
passengers. Driver was
October 3, 2001 Manchester, TN NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 6
August 19, 2001 Pleasant View, TN Motorcoach carrying 47
passengers drifted off
the roadway and crashed
onto its right side. One
passenger was killed, 38
injuries. NTSB found that
driver fatigue was the
contributing factor to
January 2, 2001 San Miguel, CA Motorcoach carrying 5
passengers ran off the
right side of the
highway, struck a
guardrail, and went over
a bridge rail, plunging
23 feet. It came to rest
on its side after rolling
over at the pavement
below. 2 passengers were
ejected and killed, 3
passengers were injured.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was driver
2001 Allamuchy, NJ NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 39
2001 Bay St. Louis, MO NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 16
2001 Fairplay, CO NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 45
August 27, 2000 Eureka, MO NTSB investigation.
Frontal impact crash: 25
Dec. 21, 1999 Canon City, CO Motorcoach carrying 59
passengers lost control
on a curve, rolled at
least once down an
embankment, and came to
rest on the roof. The
driver and two passengers
were killed, 33
passengers had serious
injuries, and 24 had
minor injuries. NTSB
found the driver was at
fault for not maintaining
control of the vehicle in
icy conditions. The
reason the driver did not
slow down the vehicle
before the crash was not
May 9, 1999 New Orleans, LA Motorcoach carrying 43
passengers crashed when
it departed the highway
onto a shoulder, struck a
guardrail, vaulted over a
golf cart path, and into
a dirt embankment. 22
passengers were killed,
15 passengers had serious
injuries, and 6
passengers had minor
injuries. NTSB found the
crash was caused by the
due to a severe medical
condition, in addition to
the driver's fatigue and
April 30, 1999 Braidwood, IL NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 1
passenger killed, 23
March 2, 1999 Sante Fe Ski Basin, Motorcoach carrying 36
New Mexico passengers crashed when
the driver lost control
on a downward-sloping
portion of a mountainous
road and crashed into a
rock embankment. 2
passengers were killed,
and 35 others injured.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was the poor
condition of the
motorcoach brakes due to
the lack of an effective
motor carrier vehicle
December 24, 1998 Old Bridge, NJ NTSB investigation.
Rollover crash: 8
passengers killed, 14
June 20, 1998 Burnt Cabins, PA Motorcoach carrying 23
passengers crashed when
it drifted onto the right
shoulder of the road into
an emergency parking
area, and into a parked
struck another parked
passengers and the bus
driver were killed, and
16 passengers were
injured. NTSB found that
the cause of the crash
was reduced driver
alertness due to taking a
and driver fatigue due to
Sept. 13, 1997 Jonesboro, AR Motorcoach failed to stop
at a T intersection and
continued through a ditch
and earthen levee. 1
passenger was killed, 6
July 29, 1997 Stony Creek, VA Motorcoach left the
roadway on the right,
vaulted through small
trees and came to rest on
its side in a river. 1
passenger was killed, 32
June 11, 1997 Normandy, MO Motorcoach collided with
pedestrians after a
routine stop by a driver
trainee. The driver
claimed he could not stop
the vehicle. 4
pedestrians were killed,
and 3 others injured.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was
protection and the need
for positive separation
between the roadway and
June 6, 1997 Albuquerque, NM Motorcoach drifted off the
roadway, rode up and over
a guardrail and hit a
cement wall. Driver was
fatigued. 1 passenger was
killed, 35 passengers
August 2, 1996 Roanoke Rapids, NC Motorcoach driver was
fatigued. 19 passengers
October 14, 1995 Indianapolis, IN Motorcoach entered an exit
at high speeds and
overturned. 2 passengers
were killed, 38 injured.
July 23, 1995 Bolton Landing, NY Motorcoach lost control on
a steep downward slope,
and overturned. 1
passenger was killed, 30
April 24, 1994 Chestertown, NY Motorcoach drifted off the
road and rolled over.
Driver was fatigued. 1
passenger was killed, 20
Feb. 22, 1994 North Hudson, NY Motorcoach carrying 47
passengers collided with
tractor-trailer that was
stopped in traffic.
Driver said he didn't see
any brake lights on the
trailer. 8 passengers
January 29, 1994 Pueblo, CA Motorcoach slid out of
control on icy pavement
and rolled over. 1
passenger was killed, 8
Sept. 17, 1993 Winslow Township, NJ A truck drifted into the
lane of the motorcoach,
causing a head-on
collision. 6 passengers
were killed, 8 injured.
Sept. 10, 1993 Phoenix, AZ Motorcoach ran off the
road and overcorrected,
then overturned. Driver
was fatigued. 33
passengers were injured.
June 26, 1993 Springfield, MO Motorcoach collided with a
passenger vehicle head
on, then left the roadway
and turned over on its
side. 1 passenger was
killed, 46 injured.
July 26, 1992 Vernon, NJ Motorcoach carrying 37
passengers lost control
on a steep hill, crashing
into two cars,
overturning, and coming
to rest upright. 12
passengers were ejected
from the bus, 6 of whom
were killed. NTSB found
that the driver's
inability to maintain the
bus adequately and
choosing to operate a bus
with known brake
deficiencies caused the
April 11, 1992 Schroon Lake, NY Motorcoach lost control,
rolling over several
times. 2 passengers were
killed, 29 injured.
January 24, 1992 South Bend, IN Motorcoach lost control on
a snowy road when a
passenger vehicle stopped
in front of it. Witnesses
say there was no vehicle
ahead. 2 passengers were
killed, 34 injured.
June 26, 1991 Donegal, PA Motorcoach ran off the
right side of the road
and overturned. One
passenger was killed and
14 passengers injured.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was the
failure of Greyhound
Lines, Inc., to ensure
that the bus driver had
adequate training and
experience to operate
intercity buses safely,
resulting in his
inability to control the
vehicle, which ran off
the road and overturned.
August 3, 1991 Caroline, NY Motorcoach ran off the
right side of the road
and overturned. 33
passengers were injured,
and 5 were uninjured.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was the
failure of Greyhound
Lines, Inc., to ensure
that the bus drivers had
adequate training and
experience to operate
intercity buses safely,
resulting in their
inability to control
their vehicles, which ran
off the road and
February 2, 1991 Joliett, PA Motorcoach swerved to the
right when the driver was
reaching for a water
bottle. The driver
corrected and veered off
the other side of the
roadway. 2 passengers
were killed, 44 injured.
May 18, 1990 Big Pine, CA Motorcoach ran off the
road and hit a rock and
earthen slope. 2
passengers were killed,
Feb. 18, 1989 Falfurrias, TX Motorcoach skidded on wet
pavement, lost control
and overturned onto an
embankment. 4 passengers
were killed, 19 injured.
Nov. 29, 1988 Tinton Falls, NJ The bus driver lost
control of the bus and it
injured. NTSB found that
the cause of the crash
was the bus driver's
inattention that resulted
in the loss of control of
Nov. 19, 1988 Nashville, TN Motorcoach carrying 45
passengers lost control
in a steering maneuver
and overturned. 38
passengers were injured.
NTSB found the cause of
the crash to be the
driver's excessive speed,
which was above the
regulatory limit, and
excessive due to weather
July 24, 1988 Camden, AL Motorcoach lost control
and rolled over. 1
passenger was killed, 30
July 23, 1988 Little Egg Harbor Motorcoach lost control
Township, NJ and ran off of the
injured. NTSB found that
the crash was caused by
the bus driver's
impairment from the
recent use of cocaine
while on duty which
resulted in the loss of
control of the vehicle.
Sept. 6, 1987 Middletown Township, Motorcoach ran off the
NJ road and overturned.
Driver and one passenger
were killed, 32
passengers injured. NTSB
found that the cause of
the crash was the bus
driver's lack of
vigilance due to fatigue,
which resulted in his
failure to perceive that
the vehicle was leaving
May 4, 1987 Beaumont, TX A tractor-trailer
jackknifed on an
interstate, crashing into
an intercity bus. Driver
and 5 motorcaoch
passengers killed, 17
passengers were injured.
NTSB found that the
driver of tractor-trailer
was operating at
excessive speed for the
April 4, 1987 Alexandria, VA Motorcoach carrying 65
passengers struck an
arched stone overpass,
shearing off the roof. 33
injuries, 1 person died
10 hours later from
injuries in the crash.
October 9, 1986 North Bergen, NJ Motorcoach veered into an
adjacent lane, struck a
passenger vehicle, then
struck another transit
bus. One person on the
other bus was killed, and
26 other passengers were
injured from both buses.
NTSB found the cause of
the crash was the
distraction of the bus
driver from his driving
duties while assisting a
Sept. 29, 1986 Carney's Point, NJ Motorcoach crashed into
the back of a slower
Passengers injured. NTSB
found the cause of the
crash to be the bus
driver's inattention to
his driving task and his
misjudgment of the
closing speed between the
bus and the truck in
front of him.
July 14, 1986 Brinkley, AR Motorcoach carrying 28
passengers crashed into
the rear of a tractor-
trailer, then left the
pavement and overturned.
Injuries and fatalities
not known. NTSB found
that the cause of the
crash was that the
tractor-trailer had made
an illegal U-Turn, and
the bus was traveling at
an excessive speed that
did not permit adequate
time and distance to slow
or stop the bus to avoid
May 30, 1986 Walker, CA Motorcoach carrying 40
passengers lost control
in an S curve, and came
to rest in a river. 21
passengers were killed,
19 passengers and the
driver were injured. NTSB
found that the cause of
the crash was excessive
speed, failure of the
driver to comply with
advisory speed signs and
to reduce the bus speed
sufficiently to negotiate
the S curve safely.
October 9, 1986 North Bergen, NJ Motorcoach veered into an
adjacent lane and struck
a passenger vehicle; then
it struck another
motorcoach. 1 passenger
was killed, 27 injured.
Sept. 13, 1985 Eureka Springs, AR Motorcoach lost control
and rolled over. Driver
and 3 passengers killed,
August 25, 1985 Frederick, MD Motorcoach lost control on
wet pavement and crashed,
coming to rest on a
bridge over the Monocacy
River. Passengers were
ejected in the crash
sequence. The bus driver
and 5 passengers were
killed, and 11 passengers
had injuries. NTSB found
that the loss of control
and excessive speed
contributed to the crash,
as did the lack of an
operative speedometer and
highway signs warning of
June 20, 1985 Ackerly, TX Motorcoach lost control on
wet pavement, rolled over
and came to rest on its
roof. 4 passengers were
killed, 27 injured.
July 18, 1984 Cheyenne, WY Motorcoach ran into the
rear of a tractor-
trailer. Driver was
fatigued. 1 passenger was
killed, 10 injured.
Nov. 30, 1983 Livingston, TX Motorcoach carrying 11
passengers struck the
back of a tractor-trailer
that had just entered the
highway. The truck
crashed through a bridge
guardrail and vaulted
into a creek bank. 6
passengers were killed,
and 5 passengers and the
bus driver had injuries.
NTSB found that the cause
of the crash was the
driver's lack of
alertness, probably due
to fatigue. Excessive
speed was a contributing
April 7, 1982 Oakland, CA Motorcoach collided with
involved in multi-vehicle
collision. There were no
June 15, 1981 Mt. McKinley National Motorcoach carrying 32
Park, AK passengers ran off the
right side of the road
and rolled over, sliding
down a hill. 5 passengers
were killed, 26
passengers injured. NTSB
found that the cause of
the crash was driver lack
of training and
April 20, 1981 Beltsville, MD Motorcoach carrying 43
passengers failed to stop
as traffic ahead slowed
and crashed into a
causing a 4-car pile-up
and a fire. Three
occupants were killed.
The bus passengers and
driver had minor
injuries. NTSB found that
the cause of the crash
was due to the failure of
the driver to maintain a
safe stopping distance
between the bus and
Feb. 18, 1981 Triangle, VA Motorcoach veered off the
roadway and overrode a
guardrail, into a bridge,
and landing in 2 feet of
water on its side. 10
passengers and the driver
were killed. NTSB found
that those least injured
were the ones who left
their seats and crouched
between the seats or lay
on the floor.
Nov. 16, 1980 Luling, TX Motorcoach lost control on
wet pavement, skidding,
rotating and coming to
rest on its side across
the roadway. 2 passengers
were killed after they
had been ejected from the
bus in the crash.
June 5, 1980 Jasper, AR Motorcoach carrying 32
passengers lost control
in a left curve on a
steep downgrade crashed
into a drainage channel
and was vaulted down an
embankment. 20 passengers
and the driver were
killed, and 13 passengers
were injured. NTSB found
that driver fatigue,
reduced fuel flow from a
nonstandard fuel pump
that adversely affected
the bus driver's ability
to downshift, and the
airbrake system all
contributed to the crash.
May 21, 1976 Martinez, CA Motorcoach carrying 52
passengers mounted a
section of the bridge
rail system, rolled off
the top of the rail and
landed on its roof. 29
passengers were killed
and the others sustained
injures. NTSB found that
the failure of the
driver, who was
unfamiliar with the bus,
to correctly monitor the
service brake air
pressure gauge, recognize
the loss of air, and take
appropriate action caused
June 6, 1975 Hamilton, GA A tractor-trailer collided
with a motorcoach
carrying 20 passengers.
The truck driver and bus
driver were killed. Most
of the passengers were
injured. NTSB found that
the failure of the truck
driver to operate at a
proper speed for safe
driving was the cause of
Nov. 3, 1973 Sacramento, CA Motorcoach ran off the
road, overrode a
guardrail and collided
with a bridge column. The
driver and 12 passengers
were killed, 33
passengers were injured.
NTSB found that there
should have been a better
Sept. 21, 1972 New Jersey Turnpike, A tractor-trailer carrying
Exit 8, NJ propylene sideswiped a
motorcoach, carrying no
passengers. NTSB found
that the cause of the
crash was the evasive
steering and skidding of
the bus into the tractor-
Sept. 3, 1972 Richmond, VA Motorcoach traveled
straight through a right
curve, crashed into a
median barrier rail,
rotated across opposite
lanes and vaulted off of
the highway. Motorcoach
driver was fatigued. 3
passengers were killed,
39 injured. NTSB found
that if all passengers
used restraints the
number of passengers
ejected from the bus
would have been reduced.
May 13, 1972 Bean Station, TN Motorcoach carrying 27
passengers hit a truck
head-on as the bus
attempted to pass a
vehicle on a two-lane
highway. The truck
driver, bus driver and 12
passengers were killed,
and 14 passengers
injured. 9 passengers had
been ejected. NTSB found
that the cause of this
crash was the bus driver
attempting to pass
ahead, and the bus
driver's failure to avoid
the truck, for unknown
October 10, 1971 Marshfield, MO Motorcoach carrying 37
passengers hit the left
side of a station wagon
in oncoming traffic and
rolled over, coming to
rest on its side. 4
passengers were killed,
including one who had
been ejected, and two
others where the roof had
collapsed. NTSB found
that the crash was caused
by the unlawful
maneuvering of the
station wagon on a
limited- access highway
by a driver under the
influence of alcohol, and
the delayed action by the
July 15, 1970 New Smithville, PA Motorcoach started to
slide on a wet highway
and went into a 180-
degree turn, through a
guardrail and down an
embankment where it
overturned. 18 people
were ejected and 6 of
them pinned under the
bus. 7 passengers were
killed. NTSB found that
hydroplaning of the front
wheels of the bus that
initiated a skid from
which the driver could
not recover was the cause
of the crash.
June 9, 1970 Dulles Airport Access Sedan driven by a driver
Road, VA who was under the
influence of alcohol,
driving on the wrong side
of the highway, struck
motorcoach. The bus went
into a skid, and finally
rested on the median. One
passenger died 20 days
after the crash due to
The driver of the sedan
was killed. NTSB found
that the driver going the
wrong way and driving
under the influence of
alcohol was the cause of
Nov. 24, 1969 Petersburg, IN Motorcoach carrying 27
passengers struck a
passenger vehicle that he
thought was entering the
highway at a different
area. There was heavy
fog. The bus skidded and
rolled, coming to rest on
an embankment. One infant
passenger of the bus was
killed, and only three
passengers had injuries.
NTSB found that the bus
driver misjudged the
location of the passenger
vehicle in the fog, and
excessive speed of the
bus were causes of the
Dec. 26, 1968 Beaver Falls, PA Motorcoach ran off the
road to the right,
overcorrected on the
left, went off the road
again on the right and
another correction made
the bus vault and roll
over onto its roof. Then
it slid down a drainage
gully. 3 passengers died,
and others sustained
injuries. NTSB found that
if occupant restraints
had been used, it would
have reduced the number
and severity of injuries.
March 7, 1968 Baker, CA Motorcoach was hit head-on
by a passenger vehicle
driven by an intoxicated
driver. The bus
overturned and then
caught on fire. 19
passengers died. NTSB
recommended that all
passengers and drivers on
buses use restraints.
Senator Lautenberg. They will be put in the record. Thank
Ms. Gillan. Thank you.
Senator Lautenberg. Mr. Forman?
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN FORMAN,
WEST BROOK BUS CRASH FAMILIES, BEAUMONT, TEXAS
Mr. Forman. Good afternoon, Senator, and I appreciate the
opportunity to be able to speak on behalf of parents and
victims this morning. I am here on behalf of the West Brook Bus
Crash Families. I am the father of Allison Forman who was
severely injured in the crash.
Today I want to share with you what I call the reality of
unsafe motorcoaches. It is a reality that has been known but
ignored for too long. It is a reality that has resulted in
needless deaths and injuries, millions of dollars in losses. It
is a reality that the lack of seat belts and basic occupant
protection in these motorcoaches killed our daughters, maimed
and injured our daughters.
I want to share a little bit about our reality, the reality
that both our children and our families faced, and then I would
like to, hopefully within the time limit, just show you
graphically--graphically--what they faced because we now have
pictures of exactly what our children and every other passenger
faces in a motorcoach accident.
My hope is that you and the other Members of Congress will
say enough is enough. We waited too long. I want to try to
convince you to create a new reality and that is safe
Our reality began March 29, 2006. The motorcoach bus that
was transporting 23 of our daughters and their two coaches to a
playoff game in Houston, Texas overturned, killing two of our
children, maiming and injuring the others. Alicia and Ashley
were ejected from the motorcoach and crushed. There were no
seat belts on the bus. There was no glazed windows keeping them
or retaining them within the bus. When they came out of their
seats and were thrown from their seats because of lack of seat
belts, there was no glass. The bus had turned on its side.
Devon and Allison were also ejected violently from their
seats. Their left arms--and Devon and Allison are here--as
their bodies were ejected out the bus when the bus turned over
on its side, were dragged under the bus, dragged along the
pavement until the bus ended up in a ditch. And there they were
trapped under the bus for over an hour. My daughter was upside
down in a headstand. Devon was in a fire ant bed. Still alive,
they were pinned under the bus. It took rescuers over an hour
to free them.
Young Sarah's ear was torn from her head, her head
violently gashed. Shoulders, ribs, knees cracked, glass shards
the size of fists literally, because I saw them as they were
surgically removed, were removed from their backs and their
legs. Their beautiful young faces will be scarred forever.
In the immediate aftermath, some girls attempted to revive
their dead teammates. Others tried to free Allison and Devon
and comfort them in their pain. Still others tried to lead the
wounded to rescue. Blood and tears mixed with mud and
raindrops. As a parent, I frankly shudder from the horror of
We buried our precious Ashley and Alicia. Of the 21
survivors, all received medical treatment of some kind. The
more seriously injured spent a combined total of 86 days in the
hospital, including intensive care. Four of the girls have
endured a combined 18 surgeries to save and in some way rebuild
their maimed bodies. Over 8 months of school instructional days
were missed prior to the close of that school year. Literally
millions of dollars in medical expenses have been expended, and
those costs continue.
Chairman, I would like to, if I can,--this idea that we
need to study more is hollow to parents. We know what the risk
is. NHTSA knows what the risk is. It is a killer combination.
It is the high risk of rollover and frontal collision that
throws you out of your seat and the lack of basic occupant
protections to keep you in your seat. It is not rocket science.
I was shocked when we got into this and saw the NHTSA
statistics from 1996 to 2005. They have known these statistics.
65 percent single vehicle accidents. 70 percent of all fatality
crashes, rollover or roadside where the bus just runs off the
road and hits something. 70 percent of the fatalities in
rollover crashes by ejection. We have known this.
I want to show you this video, and this is in a school bus.
When we first saw this video, this is what happens when a bus
rolls over without seat belts. Those are our children. Our
children told us that as they were flying--when the bus rolled
over on its side, the glass shattered and exploded, and the
glass shards were coming up as they were falling down toward
the pavement. And the glass collided with faces, with bodies.
My daughter was on the bottom of that pile. Those two girls
that were killed would have been on the bottom of that pile.
Parents ask me what can I do to keep my child safe when
they have to get on a motorcoach. I say ride in the aisle seat
because at least you will have a body underneath you. I hate to
Let me show you one other. They talked about the NHTSA
crash testing. Again, it is not rocket science. I love it when
I go on NHTSA's website and I find a NHTSA flyer from 2001 that
says a body that is in motion continues in motion until acted
upon by another body that is stopped. If that is the dashboard,
if that is your dashboard, then that is what is going to stop
I want you to see what their own crash testing showed. The
ones in the seat in front are in the three-point lap belt seat
belt. The ones obviously not belted fly out. That is a frontal
crash. Imagine taking that, combining it with the rollover. Why
do you think there are so many deaths caused by ejection?
This shocked me. This is the aftermath of their own
testing. That is what it looks like inside of the bus on a 30
mile an hour frontal crash. Now put the faces of our children
on those crash dummies.
Obviously, we know the result. The remedy is this bill. As
parents, I find that this is a comprehensive bill.
Yes, there is an oversight issue, and I would like to
quickly address that. Our carrier was in full compliance with
DOT motorcoach provisions and, in fact, signed an affidavit
that they met all DOT provisions to our school when our school
hired it. What they did not tell our school was that they did
not meet the standards that are designed to carry children
because they do not have to tell our school district that. They
do not have to meet the requirements that Congress enacted in
1974 to protect school children. And I think that is just a
misrepresentation by the industry that has as a keynote speaker
at their latest conference targeting school districts how to
increase your market share.
Of course, we do not have to wait for any more studies.
NHTSA has been doing this study since 2002. A 70 percent
reduction in fatalities estimated, and that is what they apply
to all crashes. They have been doing it since 2002--crash
fatalities with respect to rollovers. 45 to 51 percent in
frontal crash. So why we have to have all this additional
testing is beyond me. It has been scientifically proven.
Of course, I love this from a NHTSA presentation just this
summer. Dummies stay in their seat. Every parent knows that.
That is why we buckle up our children every day of the year.
Senator I just call for a new reality. I call for the
Congress to have the political courage to make this a new
reality. I call for the industry to stand behind their product
and do something. I would dare say that if the industry would
build these safety protections into their buses, parents would
buy that operator's bus as opposed to the ones that were not.
But we cannot wait on the industry. We have to protect our
children now. The standards are there. We do not have to create
new standards. We have FMV210. We have FMV220. The people from
NHTSA know what I am talking about. They need to adjust those
for motorcoaches, and Congress needs to require these occupant
protections to save our children now.
Thank you, Senator.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Forman follows:]
Prepared Statement of Stephen Forman,
West Brook Bus Crash Families, Beaumont, Texas
Our Reality: We are the families of the Beaumont West Brook High
School girls' soccer team. On the afternoon of March 29, 2006, the
motorcoach bus transporting 23 of our daughters and their two coaches
to a playoff game in Houston overturned, killing two of our children
and maiming and injuring the others.
The motorcoach that carried our daughters did not have seatbelts of
any kind. The oversized windows, making up approximately 50 percent of
the side area of the bus, were not impact resistant, had no ``glazing''
and were merely glued to the outside of the bus as opposed to being
installed in a framework. When, according to the preliminary DPS
report, the bus driver took ``faulty evasive action,'' the bus rolled
over on its left side and 25 passengers were thrown from their seats.
The windows shattered into shards of glass. Bodies, equipment, books,
purses, even seats flew through the air landing on each other in a
tumult of glass and asphalt. As the bus slid toward the ditch, our
children were pummeled as if they were in a washing machine spin cycle.
Ashley and Alicia were ejected from the motorcoach and crushed,
their bodies coming to rest under the debris. Devin and Allison were
ejected, their left arms sucked under the frame of the bus and their
bodies dragged beneath the bus as it skidded, mangling each of their
left arms and causing serious head injuries. Still alive, both girls
were pinned underneath the bus. Devin was trapped in a bed of fire
ants. Allison was pinned upside down in a headstand. It took rescuers
over an hour to free them. Sarah's ear was torn from her head, her head
violently gashed. Shoulders, ribs and knees cracked, glass shards the
size of fists lodged in backs and legs, the beautiful faces of youth
shredded on the pavement.
In the immediate aftermath, some girls attempted to revive their
dead teammates. Others tried to free their trapped friends and comfort
them in their pain. Still others tried to lead the wounded to rescue.
Blood and tears mixed with mud and raindrops. As parents, we shudder at
the horror of the scene.
We buried our precious Ashley and Alicia. Of the 21 survivors, all
received medical treatment of some kind. The more seriously injured
spent a combined total of 86 days in the hospital including intensive
care. Four of the girls have endured a combined 16 surgeries to save
and in some way rebuild bodies maimed by the accident. Over 8 months of
school instructional days were missed prior to the close of the school
year. Literally millions of dollars in medical expenses have been
expended and those costs continue.
Devin's arm was amputated. For Allison, her left elbow was crushed
and is useless. She has minimal use of her left hand. There were
multiple head injuries, some requiring plastic surgery and stitches.
For some, the ``road rash,'' pieces of glass and asphalt imbedded in
flesh, was so severe that it had to be removed by surgery or by a
special hydraulic procedure under anesthesia. There have been hours of
physical therapy, thousands of stitches, bandages, crutches and
wheelchairs. And there has been pain--lots of pain--both physical and
emotional. The girls, their families and coaches have spent hours in
counseling and therapy sessions. As one can expect, both the physical
and emotional scars of the tragedy will last a lifetime.
The Risk: After the crash, we learned that charter buses hired by
schools (often under pressure from parents, coaches and teachers) do
not meet ``crashworthiness'' standards required by Congress for school
buses. Those standards, which became law in 1977, added structural
frame, roof and seat requirements ``to protect our most precious cargo,
the children of our future.'' The structural requirements forced school
bus windows to be small and rigidly framed offering less chance of
ejection. Seatbelts in school buses was debated, but because of money
and technology issues, never implemented. It was never contemplated
that charters would transport school children like they do today.
Unfortunately, times have changed, but the law has not. Nor has the
bus industry voluntarily. The NTSB has recommended, on several
occasions since 1977, that crash protections be required of
motorcoaches including body and roof structural support, safety windows
and seatbelts. In 1999, the NTSB made the addition of safety belts and
roof crush protections part of their ``Most Wanted'' safety improvement
list. NTSB reiterated recommendations in there July 8, 2008 report on
Atlanta Bluffton Baseball Team crash stating \1\ ``Contributing to the
severity of the accident was the motorcoach's lack of an adequate
occupant protection system.''
\1\ See http://www.ntsb.gov/Publictn/2008/HAR0801.htm
But still, almost 10 years after becoming ``Most Wanted'', powerful
industry lobbies have successfully kept these protections from being
added to motorcoaches. At the same time, the industry continues to
``target'' school districts, churches and other youth organizations.
(At the 2007 Motorcoach Expo one seminar was entitled ``Targeting
School Districts, How to Increase Your Market Share.'')
Sadly, structural protections, safer windows, even lap-shoulder
seatbelts, are readily available for motorcoaches, but bus
manufacturers and operators in the U.S. don't install them to save
money. (Buses in European Union and Australia have had these
protections for 10 years!) As an expert for the Texas Association of
Pupil Transportation recently testified before the Texas House
Transportation Committee, ``these buses [chartered motorcoaches] are
designed for comfort, not safety.'' Charter buses look massive and have
an appearance of safety, but don't be fooled.
Motorcoach operators do not inform schools (or parents) that their
buses lack crash protection. Yet, they sell their buses for long
distance, highway speed travel--the maximum accident risk! And forget
about recourse. Even though charters carry 55 to 60 persons at a time,
operators are only required to carry insurance limits of $5 million,
nowhere near adequate liability should a crash occur.
The bus industry attempts to justify their conduct with a good
(thankfully) accident-per-miles-driven safety record. What they won't
share is the high injury/death-per-accident result. Charter bus
accidents can and will continue to happen, especially given our ever
more dangerous and complex highways. When they do, the result is
catastrophic. Our accident is case-in-point.
The Remedy: The Brown-Hutchison Bill (S. 2326) and Lewis House
Companion (H.R. 6747) (Action, not delays through testing as found in
H.R. 4690) provide the needed impetus to require NHTSA to mandate these
need safety reforms. Congress has allowed this inaction to continue
long enough. No more adults and children should die or be injured as a
result of the motorcoaches failure to implement these basic safety
standard. The Bill:
Applies to new buses purchased with exceptions
Regulations w/in 1 year
Safety belts (retrofit in 2-5 years depending on
Advanced window glazing to prevent ejection
Firefighting Equipment (retrofit in 2-5 years )
Regulations w/in 2 years
Compartmentalization and Impact protection
Roof Strength--Crush Resistance
Smoke and Fire Suppression (retrofit in 2-5 years)
Improved Passenger Evacuation/Lighting
Regulations w/in 3 years
Adaptive Cruise Control/Collision Warnings
Automatic Fire Suppression
Improved Carrier Oversight
Stricter Driver Training/Licensing/Requirements
Better Bus Inspection Programs
Financial Incentive for Small Operator Compliance (H.R.
The provisions of the Bill are strong and reasonable. The Bill says
``Enough is enough''. It is obvious that neither industry not the DOT
will take action without Congressional mandate. Congress must act
before more are killed and injured. As advocates for safer student
transportation, we also ask Congress to close the ``non-conforming''
loophole that allows motorcoaches to be used for school ``activities''
(as opposed to school commutes) until they meet the same safety
requirements that Congress enacted for our school children in 1974.
No more parents, students, passengers should face the risk that
became our horrible reality. The risk is real, the result is real, and
the remedy is available and reasonable. It is time for Congress to have
the political courage to make a new reality--a reality of safe
motorcoaches for all.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much, Mr. Forman. Your
testimony reveals so much of the sadness, the anguish that any
of us who are a parent or know young people and treasure their
lives so much. When I listened to your recounting of what
happened that fateful day, it is something that we have to
respect and get on with.
You heard my question before, you know, why do we have to
wait until 2010 for things that we know can make a difference?
And we will talk to Mr. Pantuso about this.
Mr. Betts. Thank you again, Mr. Forman. Mr. Betts, please.
STATEMENT OF JOHN BETTS, MOTORCOACH SAFETY NOW
Mr. Betts. Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for this
opportunity. We, the families of those who have needlessly died
or have suffered serious and permanent injuries, are here to
thank the Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee for holding
this oversight hearing on motorcoach safety and the need to
pass Senate bill 2326, a critical piece of motorcoach safety
I am John Betts, father to David Betts, who died March 2,
2007 in a motorcoach crash on North Side Drive in Atlanta,
along with Zachary Arend, Scott Harmon, Cody Holp, Tyler
Williams, and the bus driver and his wife. The motorcoach was
traveling to Florida for the Bluffton University baseball
spring trip. Many of the players and coaches were and still are
seriously and permanently disabled.
David was a 20-year-old sophomore honor student who loved
to play and compete. Though David was academically, musically,
and athletically gifted, his greatest attribute was his heart.
David had not made the university baseball traveling team
his freshman year, so he did not travel with the team to
Florida in 2006. He was determined to not only make the
traveling team his sophomore year, but to be the starting
second baseman. The day before they left for Florida in the
spring of 2007, he was told he would be the starting second
baseman. David never told us he would be starting. He wanted to
surprise his family.
I tell you this story not only as a testimony to David's
determination but to illustrate the excitement and anticipation
he felt. I was also happily anticipating seeing David play with
the passion he had for the game he loved. That eager
anticipation turned into the darkest day of my life.
While waiting in the Dayton airport, I looked up at a TV
monitor and saw a motorcoach on its side. It had been
identified as a bus with Little League players that had crashed
in Atlanta. The sense of dread I felt was confirmed when I
arrived in Charlotte and discovered it was the Bluffton
baseball team. At least six were confirmed dead, and many were
As I rerouted my flight and arrived in to Atlanta, I rushed
to the hospital trying to find David. I was told that he might
be one of the dead, and I would need to go to the morgue to
identify his body. There I found my son with swollen,
discolored eyes and multiple lacerations and bruises.
I returned to the hospital and made a promise to the
surviving boys that because David was so good, something good
would come out of this tragedy. Later I amended to include all
those who died.
Bluffton is but one of many such motorcoach tragedies.
We believe 2326 is the good we seek. We believe this
legislation will drastically decrease the possibility of future
death and serious injury due to lack of basic lifesaving
occupant safety features on motorcoaches. The apathy toward
these changes is a true tragedy. As the apathy continues and
the motorcoach industry grows, so will and has the death and
serious injury toll.
The motorcoach industry is now transporting over 630
million passengers per year which rivals the airline industry.
There are over 3,700 motorcoach companies and over 34,000
motorcoaches operating on our highways. Yet, the United States
Department of Transportation does not require that motorcoaches
have the same occupant safety protection features that are
routinely designed and required in most other major modes of
An average motorcoach is approximately 50 feet long, 12
feet high, 8 feet wide, and 24 tons. It is made up of about
one-third of non-safety glass and travels the vast majority of
the time at 65 to 75 miles an hour carrying our most fragile
cargo, such as young people and senior citizens. The size of a
motorcoach gives you a sense of security, but motorcoaches are
heavy, unstable, fast-moving projectiles.
Though crashes may never be 100 percent preventable, we can
drastically reduce death and serious injury by having the
standard occupancy protection devices called for in 2326.
Both Europe and Australia are decades ahead on this issue.
A 10-year study was just completed that found Australia has not
had one motorcoach death from anyone wearing a three-point
restraint, which is a standard requirement in their
Our own National Transportation Safety Board has been
making recommendations to no avail for at least the past
decade, the occupant safety features included in 2326.
I ask you how you would feel if 1 week after you buried
your son, you read the NTSB's 1999 bus crash worthiness report,
which called for the very occupant safety features that could
have saved your son's life. And 2 weeks after that, you found
out that the very motorcoach he was riding on was manufactured
by a company in Europe that has made motorcoaches with those
same safety features.
And now I learn today from Mr. Kelly that this can be
accomplished in a 2-year period. That means in 2001 those
safety belts could have been on that motorcoach that my son was
on, and he would be here today. And I appreciate his testimony
to that fact.
There is no need to perpetuate the pain of having a loved
one killed or permanently disabled in such an easily
preventable manner. This country needs to pass 2326 to direct
the Department of Transportation to implement the NTSB
recommendations that have been ignored far too long to the
detriment of public safety.
As the legislative process unfolds, you may see opposition
to this common sense legislation. Let me briefly address what I
believe may be the arguments against the bill.
First, there are those who believe the U.S. Department of
Transportation should drive the change in motorcoach safety
improvements which could lead to redundant studies and waste
more time at the expense of life.
And second, there is no need to act because motorcoach
transportation is one of the safest modes of transportation,
which is no reason not to strive to make motorcoach travel even
On first appearance, these seem like reasonable arguments,
but a closer review is needed. Due to time constraints, I will
need to direct you to my written statement to address these
issues in more detail.
Please help us to enact 2326 for the motorcoach occupant
safety features that are long overdue. It is literally a matter
of life and death.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to
answer any questions and look forward to working with this
Committee on advancing legislation.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Betts follows:]
Prepared Statement of John Betts, Motorcoach Safety Now
We, the families of those who have needlessly died or have suffered
serious and permanent injuries are here to thank the Senate Surface
Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
Subcommittee for holding this oversight hearing on Motorcoach safety
and the need to pass Senate Bill 2326, a critical piece of motorcoach
I am John Betts, father to David Betts who died March 2, 2007, in a
motorcoach crash on Northside Drive, in Atlanta, Georgia along with
Zachary Arend, Scott Harmon, Cody Holp, Tyler Williams, and the bus
driver and his wife. The motorcoach was traveling to Florida for the
Bluffton University Baseball spring trip. Many of the players and
coaches were, and still are, seriously and permanently disabled.
David was a 20-year-old sophomore honors student who loved to play
and compete. Though David was academically, musically, and,
athletically gifted his greatest attribute was his heart.
David had not made the University's baseball traveling team his
freshman year so he did not travel with the team to Florida in 2006. He
was determined to not only make the traveling team his sophomore year
but to be the starting second baseman.
The day before they left for Florida in the spring of 2007 he was
told he would be the starting second baseman. David never told us he
would be starting; he wanted to surprise his family.
I tell you this story not only as a testimony to David's
determination but to illustrate the excitement and anticipation he
felt. I was also happily anticipating seeing David play with the
passion he had for the game he loved. That eager anticipation turned
into the darkest day of my life.
While waiting in the Dayton airport I looked up at a TV monitor and
saw a motorcoach on its side; it had been identified as a bus with
little league players that had crashed in Atlanta.
The sense of dread I felt was confirmed when I arrived in Charlotte
and discovered it was the Bluffton baseball team. At least six were
confirmed dead and many were seriously injured.
As I re-routed my flight and arrived in to Atlanta, I rushed to the
hospital trying to find David. I was told he might be one of the dead
and I would need to go to the morgue to identify his body. There I
found my son with swollen, discolored eyes and multiple lacerations and
I returned to the hospital and made a promise to the surviving boys
that because David was so good something good would come out of this
tragedy. Later I amended that to include all those who died.
Bluffton is but one of many such motorcoach tragedies.
We believe S. 2326 is the good we seek; we believe this legislation
will drastically decrease the possibility of future death and serious
injury due to lack of basic, lifesaving occupant safety features on
motorcoaches. The apathy toward these changes is the true tragedy. As
the apathy continues and the motorcoach industry grows so will, and
has, the death and serious injury toll.
The motorcoach industry is now transporting over 630 million
passengers per year, which rivals the airline industry. There are over
3,700 motorcoach companies and over 34,000 motorcoaches operating on
our highways. Yet, the U.S. Department of Transportation does not
require that motorcoaches have the same occupant protection safety
features that are routinely designed and required in most other major
modes of transportation.
An average motorcoach is approximately 50 feet long, 12 feet high,
8 feet wide, and 24 tons. It is made up of 1/3 non-safety glass, and
travels the vast majority of the time at 65 to 75 mph carrying our most
fragile cargo, such as young people and senior citizens. The size of a
motorcoach gives you a sense of security, but motorcoaches are heavy,
unstable, fast moving projectiles.
Though crashes may never be 100 percent preventable we can
drastically reduce death and serious injury by having the standard
occupancy protection devices called for in S. 2326. Both Europe and
Australia are decades ahead on this issue; a 10-year study was just
completed that found Australia has not had one motorcoach death from
anyone wearing a three-point restraint, which is a standard requirement
in their motorcoaches.
Our own National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has been
recommending, to no avail, for at least the past decade the occupant
safety features included in S. 2326. These recommendations include
crash avoidance technologies to prevent rollovers; ejection prevention
safety features such as seatbelts, advanced window glazing and
increased roof strength; fire protection advancements; more easily
accessible passenger evacuation routes; and driver training and other
operational updates that ensure motorcoach operator compliance.
I ask you, how would you feel if 1 week after you buried your son
you read the NTSB's 1999 bus crashworthiness report which called for
the very occupant safety features that could have saved your son's
life? Then, 2 weeks after that, you found out that the very motorcoach
he was riding was manufactured by a company in Europe that has made
motorcoaches with those same features for years?
There is no need to perpetuate the pain of having a loved one
killed or permanently disabled in such an easily preventable manner;
this country needs to pass S. 2326 to direct the Department of
Transportation to implement the NTSB recommendations that have been
ignored far too long to the detriment of public safety.
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has a
long and proud history of supporting bi-partisan safety solutions to
protect the American public. As the legislative process unfolds you may
see opposition to this commonsense legislation. Let me briefly address
what I believe to be the major arguments against the bill.
First, there are those who believe that the U.S. DOT should drive
the change in motorcoach safety improvements and second, there is no
need to act because motorcoach transportation is one of the safest
modes of transportation.
On first appearance these seem like reasonable arguments but a
closer review is needed, especially from the perspective of a father
who has lost a child.
Motorcoach transportation may be one of the safest modes when you
look at statistics of lives lost per miles traveled compared to other
modes of transportation. However, as family members here today
representing those who had a loved one die in such a crash, our first
response is that such statistics are not comforting. As a father, am I
to disregard David's death as his being one of the unlucky few? As NTSB
recommendations languish here in the United States, Europe and
Australia have already required basic occupant safety protection
measures such as seat belts. Many of us flew here today in a plane that
had a seat belt, all passenger vehicles are equipped with seat belts
and we must ask why has the government and industry delayed in making
seat belts available on motorcoaches? The U.S. ought to be leading the
world in motorcoach safety, not following.
My second response is that you need to differentiate the crash from
the outcome; that is, driver error and highway design contributed to
our son's death. However, the lack of basic occupant restraints led to
his and many other ejections that resulted in death and serious
injuries from being tossed around like they were in a washing machine.
My third response is that motorcoach travel could be and should be
even safer. Last year and this year thus far, there were no commercial
airline crashes in the United States but that doesn't mean we don't
continue to strive for the highest level of safety for the traveling
public. This increase in occupant safety technologies is a win-win.
That is, it would lead to fewer deaths and injuries and decrease the
motor carriers' insurance premiums.
It is not necessary to study the problem further; indeed, we cannot
afford to study the problem any longer. It is time to move forward with
legislation giving the U.S. Department of Transportation direction and
a timetable for action.
The NTSB has forty years of field reviews of motorcoach accidents
and NHTSA has recently (12/07) performed simulated motorcoach crash and
rollover tests indicating the need for three point restraints.
Senate Bill 2326 also gives reasonable timeframes for addressing
We must be cautious about the motives of those who request more
study on that which we already have data. Otherwise, a never-ending
data gathering game will occur that unnecessarily increases timeframes
and places more lives in jeopardy.
This past 18 months a nationwide Internet poll has found a 75
percent positive response to S. 2326. I have obtained well over 3,000
signed petitions from U.S. voters wanting this bill to pass.
I would like to conclude by quoting one grieving mother whose son
died in a motorcoach crash in Utah on January 6, 2008. I believe she
speaks for all of us who have lost loved ones in motorcoach crashes.
``Had there been seat belts on that bus my son would have had one on.
In all probability he would still be alive. I am very passionate about
Please help us to enact S. 2326 for the motorcoach occupant safety
features that are long overdue, it is literally a matter of life and
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to answer any
questions and look forward to working with this Committee on advancing
Senator Lautenberg. Mr. Betts----
Senator Lautenberg.--anything by way of a longer statement
that you would like to make we will make some time.
Mr. Betts. Oh, well, that was very nice of you. One of the
biggest concerns I had was my verbosity and the time----
Senator Lautenberg. It is not verbosity at all.
Mr. Betts. Well, thank you. I was very happy that that
timer was on outside of my sight. I took that as a presumption
that I did not have to attend to that.
Senator Lautenberg. Your testimony, like Mr. Forman's, was
Some of the things that we do here mystify us because some
things are as obvious as, to use the expression, the nose on
your face, and yet there are these delays and
procrastinations--they do not get done. I mean, seat belts? You
would not think of permitting your child, your loved one, your
friend to get in your car and not urge them to wear a seatbelt.
If the buzzer does not go off, the bell does not go off in your
car, you remind them out of just your conscience.
We have all seen accidents where a seat belt was not worn
and the consequence. A very distinguished attorney that was a
good friend of mine in New Jersey went just a couple blocks
from his office, failed to put on his seat belt, and wound up
in an accident that crippled him for the remainder. He is still
alive, but his life is quite different as a result of being
crippled. And all of his motor function is impaired.
So we thank you for your willingness to air your very
personal views and recognize that what you are doing is
contributing to somebody you do not even know, some family that
you have never met. I know that Senator Hutchison feels as I
do. We have to get on with these things. Thank you.
Mr. Pantuso, you have heard this testimony and obviously
are moved, as all of us are, as our friends at the table are,
and the response of those in the audience who saw this up front
and personal in their own lives.
What are the top safety priorities that you believe that we
have got to meet minimally--minimally? What can be done to
hasten the actions necessary to save lives and reduce injuries
and ultimately, but secondarily, reduce costs? And I am not
talking about the personal costs. There is nothing that can
redeem that expenditure. You cannot replace a loved one or make
them well again when they have been so seriously injured.
What would you say ought to be--and I know that you care
about the passengers you carry. What would you say ought to be
the first things done that are minimally, in terms of time and
availability? What do you think we ought to do?
Mr. Pantuso. Mr. Chairman, thank you. Yes, we are very
moved not only by the testimony, but by any accident, certainly
any fatality that happens.
The motorcoach industry is an industry, as I said earlier,
made up of small mom and pop companies. They are in virtually
every community. The people they carry are their neighbors,
What we have seen over the years has been a failure of
Government to act. Plain and simple. I have been in this chair
at the American Bus Association as their CEO for more than a
decade, and for more than a decade, virtually every time there
is a serious accident, ABA and other motorcoach associations
have gone to NHTSA and said, please, please, do the testing
necessary to answer the question, how do we protect the
occupants on board. And that has not happened until just last
We are very, very grateful that it is going on now. We are
glad that NHTSA is in the testing mode. We are glad that they
are looking at roof strength, at rollover, at occupant
protection, that they have done the crash test, they are doing
the sled tests and that they are analyzing the millions of data
points. And that is all that we can ask, but we have asked for
it for a decade and it has taken that long to happen.
I think that the real critical issue that can be dealt with
immediately are some of the steps that were outlined by
Administrator Hill and again that we have asked for for more
than a decade. I remember the Mother's Day crash in 1998 in New
Orleans when more than 20 individuals, who were on their way to
a casino, perished because of an illegal operation and an
illegal driver. That to me is step number one.
Senator Lautenberg. What can we do in the quickest fashion
to offer more protection than we do? Collision avoidance is a
great thing. It is technology. The buses have to be equipped
and all kinds of things have to happen. But would seat belts
not be something fairly easy to install and get on feeling
better about ourselves and our obligations?
Mr. Pantuso. Well, step number one, Mr. Chairman, is
getting the bad operators off the road. That has got to be
first and foremost. That can be done tomorrow by this
administration and by the State enforcement officials.
Certainly step number two is finding what the occupant
protection system is that is going to work. Again, for more
than a decade, we have said the most important part is to keep
the people in the coach, keep them compartmentalized in the
seat, make sure that the windows do not open up and allow the
individuals to go out, make sure that there are proper windows,
whether it is glazing or whether it is a new technology, so
that the windows do not break and the passengers----
Senator Lautenberg. I hear you, but these things require
major change. Am I wrong to suggest that if we could get seat
belts in vehicles that we could avoid some of the tragedy that
involves, let us say, that inevitable action that could come
along? Would that not be a good first move and put a plea out
there to your members, to others on the basis of their costs of
operation? I mean, insurance costs, I am sure, would go down
and so forth.
Mr. Pantuso. Mr. Chairman, I do not think that you are
wrong. I mean, I have a seat belt in my car, as we all do. I
buckle up. I am flying later today. There is a seat belt on the
The question is to what standard and how to put the seat
belts in. Again, with small mom and pop businesses and no
standard to adhere to and no way of knowing with the variety of
coaches that exist out there, with every make and model as many
as 20 or 30 years old and different seat designs, how to put
that seat belt in and to do it in a way that is going to
protect people and not further injure them.
Senator Lautenberg. How many new motorcoaches are brought
into service a year in America? Do you know?
Mr. Pantuso. In round numbers, between 2,000 and 2,500. And
again, that is out of a fleet of 35,000 to 40,000 coaches.
Senator Lautenberg. How many seats in the average bus?
Mr. Pantuso. Typically 50 or a little more, but typically
50 on average.
Senator Lautenberg. That is a lot of people. A lot of
people. And if it was possible to initiate a program at least
doing that much, I think it is a cost that could very well be
saved on the financial side. We cannot guarantee that something
still terrible would not happen, but it would be unlikely that
deaths would not go down.
Mr. Pantuso. Mr. Chairman, I have never heard cost as an
issue in the motorcoach industry, never had an operator
question that as an issue. Again, the only question we have had
is how do we do it, and that is where we look to NHTSA.
Senator Lautenberg. There is nobody in the industry that
said, to your knowledge, that listen, we ought to get on with
this, you know, why do we have to wait for more tests? As you
said yourself, when you get in a car, you get in an airplane,
you buckle up. It is second nature.
Senator Lautenberg. Ms. Gillan, which of the safety issues
that need improvement in the bus industry--also, I think this
is a little diversionary. It is a question about the trucking
industry. I am going to pass and we will submit it to you in
Ms. Gillan. OK.
Senator Lautenberg. Because there is a lot that has to be
done there, but it is not the same sensitivity, even though
there are far more terrible accidents involving trucks. But I
do not know how much of that can be avoided, but there are
things that we can do and they may take a little bit longer
time. But we ought to get on with it.
Mr. Forman or Mr. Betts, I do not have to ask how you feel
about the bus companies and the manufacturers. You have both
expressed frustration at not having had the opportunity to make
a difference in your lives by lack of attention to the safety
issues. I think it is redundant to ask you how you feel about
these companies that carry passengers without something.
Do you think we ought to kind of rush into some device that
might improve things? How do you feel about waiting for
standards to be developed?
Mr. Forman. Mr. Chairman, what I do not understand--what
rang hollow to me--the standards exist. We have FMV210 which
sets the performance standards for safety belts. If you are
going to put them in, that is the standard you have to do. They
have anchorage standards. They have standards for lap-shoulder
seat belts. In 2002, NHTSA did sled testing for seat belts in
school buses. The physics is not any different. So they have
As I understand from my industry contacts, the only
difference is are you going to adopt a 13G seat belt versus a
7G seat belt which is a European standard, and most people in
the American industry--the makers of these restraint systems--
want a 13G which is an FMV210 standard.
So this idea that we have got 4 million points of data and
we have got to go back and analyze them, that is just
absolutely a delay tactic and hollow. So it rings hollow. And
people use them.
You know, our children in the school transportation, they
did not have a choice. In other words, if they were going to
participate on the baseball team or on the soccer team or on
the band, they were going to ride that bus. I could not, as a
parent, take them off that bus because it did not have seat
So those standards exist. We know that. They ought to be
applied to motorcoaches now.
Senator Lautenberg. Mr. Betts, do you want to----
Mr. Betts. Yes. As it relates to the question of rushing
in, I would agree with Mr. Pantuso. I do not think you rush in.
In the same light, in the Shuster bill, I do not think it needs
to take 18 years.
And I believe based on the information at least that I am
seeing from the bus crash test that was done in December 2007
and based on the motorcoach that is sitting outside here that
we saw, we tend to know already that that motorcoach, based on
its ability to absorb force, is such that it will hold--the
seat anchorage system will hold. So in my opinion--I agree with
Mr. Forman--we do have not only the technology, we now have the
data. And I believe we need to go forward.
What I really would not like seeing--and I am sure you have
picked up very quickly I am not politically oriented nor, quite
frankly, driven. But if it is going to take 2 years of writing
up and going back and forth in the House and Congress and this
kind of stuff, that would irritate me considerably because all
I do is see more people dying and more people being permanently
injured that do not need to be when we already have the data.
We have the science. If there is some piece of science that we
do not need, I am open to listening to that.
But I believe what Mr. Forman--I do not want to put words
in his mouth, but I will tell you what is coming out of mine. I
am 56 years of age. I have been in administration for 34 years,
and I have seen a lot of smoke and I have seen some fire. And I
believe what you do is you ferret out and differentiate that
smoke from fire. So I am certainly willing to listen if there
is some science that is needed. I just do not, at this point in
time, have that.
The second comment I would make to that is, you know, even
on a retrofit of a bus that would not be able to maybe totally
withstand, my son--I know Mr. Forman mentioned about getting in
an aisle seat and my wife probably cringed. My son was in 4C,
which is an aisle seat. He was propelled out of his seat at 55
miles an hour. It is the physics of the--whatever. He was
propelled out of his seat very fast and stopped very hard in
the front of the bus.
I will tell you what. You take me back in time. You put
some mom and pop three-point seat restraint on that, and I am
going to be more happy, at least seeing an opportunity not to
be flying. He died of a basal skull fracture from ear to ear. I
am thinking if he is in his seat, we are probably not going to
have that. Could there be other things? Mr. Pantuso, other
people could say that. He could have died of other kinds of
things. Perhaps, perhaps. I would just as soon take my chance--
prefer to take my chance on a retrofit so that at least I have
that opportunity not to go flying at an extremely high rate of
speed and stop at an extremely quick deceleration rate, to the
extent that he also had an aortic tear.
I am not doing this for emotion. I am here to--if I was, I
would cry like I did about 10 minutes ago. But I am doing this
to show that what is happening is when he stopped quickly, his
heart went forward and went this way and ripped the aorta. I
have talked with a number of cardiac surgeons. They said that
quite frankly, as soon as that occurred, had we been right
there with full nurse and fully equipment, we could not have
saved his life.
So I am thinking, geez, you know, the seats in the Bluffton
bus crash were all intact. I am thinking my son is in his seat.
The probability of him being intact is higher than him not
being in that seat. So I would just as soon have a retrofit on
something that maybe was not perfect, and on the new buses look
at getting more of the seat anchorage system, et cetera,
because I think at least it will decrease that amount.
And I really appreciate your comment, Mr. Chairman, as it
relates to the other issue on the business side because I do
not think the motorcoach industry is the evil empire. They are
a business that is trying to operate. And in my opinion, the
insurance rates are something that are fairly important as well
that can go down with these safety features that are added. So
it is not just a matter of decreasing death and serious injury.
It is also a matter of assisting them with their current
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much.
Senator Hutchison, my apologies for running over, but you
heard what I heard.
Senator Hutchison. Yes, and I appreciate it.
Senator Lautenberg. As painful as it is to our friends, it
is painful to hear as well. Please.
Senator Hutchison. Let me just ask. I just want to ask Mr.
Forman for the record, because I want this in the record.
Because of his determination and efforts, we do have a law in
Texas that does protect our school children, and I would like
for you to tell us because it was your efforts really that I
think spearheaded this movement, exactly what you did in Texas
that does assure that our young people, using school activity
buses, will have seat belts.
Mr. Forman. Thank you, Senator, and it is not my effort.
Our girls were a team and the parents are a team too. So it is
a lot of hard work from a lot of parents that are involved in
Yes, for the record, in 2007, Governor Perry signed Ashley
and Alicia's Law in Texas, which requires all school buses to
have lap-shoulder seat belts--all newly purchased school buses
to have lap-shoulder seat belts beginning in 2010, September
2010, and all charter motorcoaches that carry students to have
lap-shoulder seat belts by 2011. The legislature saw that the
technology was available. And with respect to both school buses
and motorcoaches, that technology is available.
There was a lead time given the industries to begin putting
those in. What we found with school buses, that is going to be
phased over a 10- to 12-year period with new buses because of
the economics. However, for the motorcoach industry, that
economics--that is a profit-driven industry. That is not public
funds. There is absolutely no reason why our children and our
schools are being subjected to this risk.
I think we were two votes short in the House of being
unanimous and we had a unanimous Senate vote in Texas. Once
they saw the videos, once they saw the data that was already
there, the standards that were already there, they said this is
what we want for our State. We have a duty to protect our
children, and NHTSA has finally said the most optimum
protection is a lap-shoulder seat belt. As the State
legislature, they said this is what we need to do for our
children. This is what we need to give peace of mind to our
If I could add just briefly, Senator, the only place today
that a child learns not to wear a seat belt is at school. Now,
when you think about it, because parents today--we have all
grown up with seat belts. We train our children from the minute
they get in a car to have a restraint on. And the first time
they ever get on any vehicle that does not have a restraint is
when they go to school. NHTSA spends millions of taxpayer
dollars trying to educate children to put on seat belts, and
then the bell rings and they walk outside on a school bus or a
motorcoach and it has no seat belt.
We talked to a legislative aide in Texas. It was great
because the young aides--and I speak to the staffers behind
you--whose children are just entering school. The first grader
came home and said, Mommy--you know, the first day of school
came home and said, yes, I rode the bus home but it was really
strange because where is the seat belt. Where is the seat belt?
We know now that the lowest percentage--demographic wearing
seat belts is teens. That is about 10 or 15 points below
national average of seat belt usage. Now, where did those teens
learn not to wear a seat belt? Riding school buses and
motorcoaches. That is the only place they could have learned.
Something has got to get done.
Senator Lautenberg. It defies logic.
Senator Hutchison. Did you have something to add?
Ms. Gillan. Senator, can I just add something too? I would
really like to dispel the notion that DOT is starting with a
blank slate. A lot of the occupant protection technologies are
already underway, are being studied at NHTSA. This Committee's
leadership resulted in SAFETEA-LU. They are looking at advanced
window glazing for passenger vehicles, and stronger roofs. They
are doing research on crash avoidance technologies for large
trucks. As many of us mentioned, Australia has had three-point
seat belts for 14 years.
So it is not as though nothing has been done and none of
these technologies have been looked at. What we need and what
S. 2326 does is it gives the agencies deadlines for moving
forward with this. So I think to say, well, they just started
last year gives a misimpression that nothing has been done
when, in fact, there is a lot of work that has been done that
has direct application to motorcoach safety.
Senator Hutchison. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I just want to add one thing and that is that
the people who have come here are all affected by Hurricane
Ike. Beaumont was hit and so was, of course, the Houston area.
And yet, these people who mostly do not have power in their
homes to go back to felt so strongly about this that they kept
And I was asked by the Secretary of Homeland Security to go
with him to Houston and Galveston today and Beaumont and Port
Arthur and Orange, but I knew if I did not come here, that we
would not have the same kind of impetus and momentum that we
just had to have. So I really appreciate your doing this.
I am going to go to Beaumont and Port Arthur on Monday and
Orange to try to take care of that. And as you know, I have
been working to try to get the tax relief, which we are going
to get for the bill that was already in place. But we have
added Ike to it.
So I just want to say that a lot of people are so committed
to this that we want to move it forward, and I hope that we can
get a markup on this bill and at the earliest moment we will be
able to pass it. And if there are legitimate debates or
amendments, we want to be open for that, but we can move. There
are some basics here that can be done.
So I thank all of you and I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you. I like millions of people
have seen the devastation that hit Texas, and you shake your
head in wonderment. How do people recover? We are not talking
about this versus life or anything like that. But when your
home is destroyed, the memorabilia, all of the history of a
family is destroyed, it is very painful. We wish you and the
people in Texas a sturdy recovery.
Senator Hutchison. Thank you very much.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you.
This Committee meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:32 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Prepared Statement of the United Motorcoach Association
The United Motorcoach Association (UMA), a thriving association of
North American bus and motorcoach companies, appreciates the
opportunity to provide testimony today at this important hearing.
Founded in 1971, our 1,300 plus members range in size from small
independent family businesses with a few units to large corporate
operations with diverse fleets and services. Our members are the
Nation's charter, tour, sightseeing and scheduled service operations
and are vital to many communities offering recreation, travel and
tourism opportunities. The industry provides over 600 million passenger
Of the nearly 3,600 bus companies in the United States representing
nearly 40,000 buses, 90 percent of those companies are small
businesses. The average company employs 46 individuals with each bus
and motorcoach representing an industry average of 4.23 employees. 75
percent of the industry consists of fleets of fewer than 100 units and
nearly 50 percent of the industry consists of fleets 24 units or fewer.
Our Regulatory Environment
The bus and motorcoach industry operates under the oversight of the
U.S. Department of Transportation and authority granted by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA conducts
periodic Compliance Reviews of safety management programs, random
safety inspections and maintains information regarding passenger
carriers' fiduciary responsibilities, such as insurance. A Compliance
Review is an on-site examination of a motor carrier's records and
operations to determine whether the carrier meets FMCSA safety fitness
standards, i.e., are adequate safety management controls in place to
ensure acceptable compliance with applicable safety requirements to
reduce risk. Additionally, our buses and motorcoaches are routinely
inspected at operators' facilities and at popular destinations such as
amusement parks, casinos, special events, etc. UMA strongly supports
stronger enforcement activity by FMCSA to get unsafe operators off the
road and implement stricter new entrant requirements as the best and
most expedient way to improve motorcoach safety. Every bus and
motorcoach operating legally on our Nation's roads and highways must
also conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards established
by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Our Industry's Safety Record
The bus and motorcoach industry has a remarkable safety record. In
the past decade, our industry has experienced an average of fewer than
23 fatalities annually, despite operating in an environment, our
Nation's highways and roads, which experiences over 40,000 fatalities
annually in vehicular accidents. This strong safety record results from
a combination of significant Federal regulatory oversight and an
industry that treats safety as our economic lifeblood. Each accident,
loss of life and injury, no matter how statistically low, is always one
too many and UMA partners with the National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB), FMCSA and others to study measures that will prevent similar
accidents from reoccurring and convey those results to our members.
UMA offers a number of services to operators and the public to
maximize the safety aspect of our operations. UMA offers the public a
detailed online ``Consumer Guide to Purchasing Motorcoach Services''
and a ``Student's Guide'' in an effort to aid the consumer in the
selection of a safe and reliable bus and motorcoach operator. UMA
offers routine safety related assistance and seminars at our annual
conventions and hosts an annual Safety Management Seminar held at the
National Transportation Safety Board Academy in Ashburn, VA. UMA
launched the Bus and Motorcoach Academy last year, the first of its
kind in the industry. This online Academy provides a curriculum of
basic operational knowledge for owners, management and our industry's
most valuable asset--our drivers. UMA also works closely with the Bus
Industry Safety Council and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in
continuing efforts to develop and propagate safe operating practices.
Current Safety Issues and Legislation
UMA worked closely with the late Congressman Paul Gillmor (R-OH)
and subsequently Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Congresswoman
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to develop H.R. 4690, comprehensive
legislation rooted in research and testing, and is consistent with the
recommendations of the NTSB regarding motorcoach occupant protection.
UMA has also joined in a coalition with many other entities to support
H.R. 3820 introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) and its
companion measure, S. 3428, introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-
MI). ``The Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Technology Tax Act'' would
provide an incentive approach to some proven new safety technologies.
UMA commends both of these bills to the Committee's consideration as
you move forward with the reauthorization process next year.
Recently, NHTSA launched a new motorcoach crashworthiness study and
associated testing. UMA supports this effort and eagerly awaits their
conclusions as we strongly believe any new safety mandates on the
industry should be based on comprehensive science, research and
testing. It is important to note however, that most safety enhancements
are ``engineered in'', not ``added on''. Much consideration must be
afforded so as to avoid compromising one area of safety for another.
Whatever standards NHTSA may develop from this study and testing, UMA
believes strongly that it should develop those standards for their
installation on both new and retrofitted buses.
The bus and motorcoach industry stands proudly by our safety record
but we never rest in the diligent pursuit of improving that record. Our
very survival hinges on those pursuits. UMA stands ready to assist the
Committee, Congress and our regulating agencies in the further
development and implementation of safe operating practices, equipment
and new technologies grounded in sound science and testing to further
improve the safety for our customers. Thank you for the opportunity to
provide testimony to the Committee.
Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association (EPGAA)
February 18, 2008
Hon. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Dear Senator Hutchison:
I am writing on behalf of the Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive
Association (EPGAA) to express support for legislation you recently
introduced, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2007 (S. 2326).
The EPGAA is comprised of companies that manufacture laminated
glass and the laminating interlayer. Its purpose is to provide
information and education on the development of laminated glass for
added vehicle safety, security, and occupant comfort. EPGAA members
include DuPont Automotive; Guardian Industries Corp.; PPG Industries,
Inc.; Sekisui S-Lec America, LLC; and Solutia Inc.
The EPGAA recognizes that safety is a function of overall vehicle
design. It is the EPGAA's view that the measures mandated in S. 2326
will help protect the more than 630 million passengers currently using
motorcoaches for travel. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) has determined that more than one-third of the
deaths resulting from motorcoach crashes occur in rollovers. According
to NHTSA, more than half the deaths in motorcoach crashes are the
result of occupant ejection. S. 2326 would require manufacturers to use
advanced glazing as a safety countermeasure.
Despite several recommendations issued by the National
Transportation Safety Board since 1973, safety features such as safety
belts and occupant ejection prevention countermeasures (e.g., advanced
glazing on windows other than windshields) have yet to be required by
the United States Department of Transportation. Advanced glazing has
been the standard for windshield applications for more than 70 years,
and is increasingly being used voluntarily for other window openings.
Advanced glazing can be particularly important in motorcoaches as part
of a total safety system because the windows are large and could become
large openings during rollover events.
We at the EPGAA know that you are concerned for the safety of the
millions of Americans that take advantage of motorcoach travel and
applaud your sponsorship of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2007.
Please feel free to contact me for any additional information that
may be helpful.
Peter T. Dishart,
Houston, TX, September 15, 2008
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee,
Subject: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Bill
S. 2326 and Oversight Hearing on Bus Safety
Dear Chairman Inouye and esteemed Committee Members:
I am writing you on a very personal matter that requires your help.
Please consider supporting Bill S. 2326, The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety
Act. I am speaking to you today as a constituent and as a person who
has been personally affected by the current regulations governing bus
Let me give you a little background on me. After graduating with a
Ph.D. in psychology from University of Hawaii, I moved back to Texas on
July 12, 2008, to be closer to my mother. A few weeks after I came
home, my mom told me that she was going on a church pilgrimage trip to
Carthage, Missouri. Every year, thousands of Vietnamese Catholics
travel from all over the United States to Carthage for an annual
celebration of the Virgin Mary. On the morning of Thursday, August 7, I
gave my mom a hug and wished her a good trip before I left for work. I
reminded her to call me when she got back on Sunday so I could pick her
up and then my brother and I would take her to dinner for her 63rd
birthday. But we did not have that opportunity because my mom's bus
crashed outside of Sherman, Texas at 12:45 a.m. on Friday, August 8,
2008. My mother, Catherine Tuong Lam, was one of the 17 victims who
died in the Sherman bus accident. Catherine worked as a social worker
for the Texas Department of Human Services in Houston, TX for almost 30
years. In addition to serving her community, one of her greatest
achievements in life was raising her children to be strong, successful
adults on her own after my father passed away in 1985. She was vibrant
and healthy and I have lost her. She will never see me or my brother
get married. She will never meet her future grandchildren. Why? Because
she had the misfortune of traveling on a bus that did not have the
safety measures recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board
Although my grief is very profound, some of my community members
have suffered even greater losses. The day after my brother and I
buried our mother, my brother went to a joint funeral for six of my
mom's friends and I went to a joint funeral for five of my mom's
friends. Our community is distraught over the loss of so many loved
ones. My friend, Michael Tan Le, lost his father, mother, and mother-
in-law in the Sherman Bus Accident while two other family members
suffered serious injuries. Mrs. Vivica Nguyen who would have celebrated
her 30th birthday in a few days leaves two children under the age of 10
behind, in the care of her husband Scott Tran, who has broken ribs and
can hardly stand straight as a result of his injuries sustained in the
Sherman bus accident. My mother's good friend, Mr. Khiem Nguyen leaves
behind a wife of 44 years, several children, and many grandchildren.
Parents have lost their children. Children have lost their parents.
Brothers have lost their sisters. I was shocked and devastated to lose
my mother so suddenly. Now that I have had some time to grieve, I
wonder what you and I can do together to ensure that other families do
not have to experience a tragedy like this. The National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the cause(s) of the
Sherman Bus Accident. The investigation may take a couple of years to
complete, but it is already evident that seatbelts and glazing on the
bus windows would have minimized the large number of fatalities and
serious injuries that happened in our accident. I can attest to this
because not only did we lose our mother, we lost many of our friends.
The current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
regulations governing bus safety are inadequate. Federal regulations
cannot stop bus accidents from occurring; however, regulations can
mandate increased safety measures that would minimize the devastating
number of serious injuries and fatalities that result from current bus
Just days ago, Hurricane Ike caused severe damage in the Houston/
Galveston area. My office at UTMB hospital on Galveston Island is
ruined and my house in Houston has sustained severe damages. Even
though I have lost my home and my workplace, those losses are nothing
compared to the loss of my mother. And that is why I am here in front
of all of you, because I believe in the importance of passing this bill
now. How many more lives must be crippled or lost before the cost/
benefit analyses show that the benefits of saving lives far exceeds the
costs of increased safety measures? NTSB has issued numerous
recommendations for motorcoach safety belts since 1968 and for improved
safety glazing since 1973. How many further research studies are needed
to replicate the current findings that show how loss of life can be
prevented simply with the installation of seatbelts and glazing on
windows in motorcoaches? The time to act is now. More time is not
needed to show that current bus safety standards are not enough. We
cannot leave the fate of our fellow Americans to the motorcoach
industries. We must take a strong stand. The time to act is now.
NTSB safety recommendations for motorcoach operations have
languished for years and Congressional hearings have identified
numerous oversight and enforcement failings of the FMCSA. The NTSB
recommendations address needed Federal Government actions to improve
the safety of the vehicle and protect its occupants, to establish
minimal training requirements for motorcoach operators, and to require
better operational procedures. Again, I urge you that the time to act
On behalf of my mother, Catherine Tuong Lam, and the other Sherman
Bus Accident victims, I implore you to consider supporting The
Motorcoach Safety Bill (S. 2326) sponsored by Senators Kay Bailey
Hutchison and Sherrod Brown. Legislation is absolutely needed to
correct deadly motorcoach safety problems. Please help prevent other
families from going through what my brother and I have been through in
dealing with my beloved mother's loss now.
Yen-Chi Le, Ph.D.
September 18, 2008
Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Marine
Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
I am writing this letter in support of Senate Bill 2326, because I
believe that is a critical piece of motorcoach safety legislation that
is long overdue. It is a vital piece of legislation needed to prevent
any further injuries or deaths like the ones that affected the families
of Bluffton University.
I am Lynn Mesley, the mother of James Hausman, survivor of the
Bluffton University Bus Crash that occurred on March 2, 2007. The crash
occurred on Northside Side, in Atlanta, Georgia and James lost five of
his teammates that morning on the highway as a result of that crash.
My son James is currently a senior at Bluffton, majoring in
Mathematics and considering a career in law. He is doing well
academically and athletically at school and is very strong-willed and
independent. He has handled the after effects of the accident with the
courage, strength and dignity lacking in much older men. The last 18
months have forced James and all of the surviving players to deal with
issues that they should not be faced with until much later in life.
My son was seated in the fifth row of the motorcoach on the
driver's side. The final report from the NTSB and the story relayed
from our son the day of the accident shows that the fatalities from the
crash all occurred from the same area that he was sitting in. Only by
the Grace of God were we able to talk to and take our son home with us
from Atlanta after the crash.
Unfortunately, the Bluffton incident is only one of many such
I believe S. 2326 is the needed step to decrease the possibility of
future deaths and injuries due to the lack of basic safety measures
such as safety belts and safety glass.
My husband and I are both firefighter/paramedics by trade and we
see firsthand frequently the differences that safety belts make in
automobiles. We have seen people survive automobile accidents that they
should have been killed in and we have also seen the reverse. We have
seen people killed in minor crashes as a result of the failure to wear
a safety belt.
The NTSB has been recommending for years, (at least the last ten--
minimum), to improve safety features in the motorcoach industry. These
recommendations include: crash avoidance technologies to prevent
rollovers, ejection prevention features such as--safety belts, advanced
window glazing and increased roof strength to prevent/decrease roof
crush, fire protection improvements, improved driver education and
medical certifications and more accessible passenger evacuation routes.
Unfortunately, this was not a topic that I was familiar with until
March 2, 2007, at 5:40 a.m. when my son called me after crawling
through the windshield of a crashed motorcoach in the middle of 1-75 in
Atlanta, GA. I did make a promise to my son standing in the hospital
that morning that we would do everything in our power to make sure that
the appropriate safety changes would be enacted.
S. 2326 will be the legislation that will finally enact the
recommendations that the NTSB has been heralding since at least 1999.
I urge you to pass S. 2326 so that no other families have to endure
what the families of Bluffton University and many other families have
had to endure. I am very dedicated to this cause and am determined to
see it through its fruition.
Thank you for your consideration,
I am here today in support of Senate Bill 2326. Unfortunately I
have a personal experience relating to this bill. My son was a member
of the Bluffton baseball team that left the overpass in Atlanta last
year. We were lucky that he survived the accident; however we lost five
of his teammates during this tragedy. As you know, morbidity and
mortality cost this country millions each year. Prevention is the venue
to prevent unnecessary grief and loss from accidents like these.
Commercial bus safety measures instituted in a timely manner as
legislated in this bill will reduce the continued loss of life
associated with bus accidents.
I am a professional firefighter paramedic and a member of FEMA USAR
with Ohio Task Force 1. I have been in this field since 1974 and I have
been witness to the changes occurring in our transportation system. I
have seen that seat belts saved many lives which would have otherwise
been lost. I have witnessed the value of vehicle compartmentalization
on newer cars. Air bags, roll over roof reinforcements, fuel cut of
valves, and crumple zones to absorb the kinetic energy of impacts are
just a few of the safety features found in the transportation industry.
Even my fire truck has seat belts installed and mandated they be used
while responding to an emergency. I have trained and practiced cutting
apart school buses. They are built like tanks to protect our children
from harm. I also have witnessed what happens in motor vehicle accident
when the occupants do not wear seat belts and are ejected. The outcome
is usually fatal. Because of my background, I am a strong supporter for
increased safety requirements for the motorcoach industry. These
requirements need to be in place as son as possible.
Unfortunately it takes a tragedy and public outcry to legislate
needed changes that should have been implemented years ago. The NTSB
has recommended these changes and their voice has gone unheard. How
many more of our sons, daughter, and relatives will be lost before we
heed the warning and make the necessary safety requirements law. The
motorcoach industry will continue to resist changes that affect their
profit margins. We must act in the public's behalf and enforce change
in the industry. We the families of motorcoach victims have united to
see this bill enacted as is without change.
Thank you for your attention to this important piece of
legislation. I am sure it will save many lives once it becomes law.
Barry A. Mesley,
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg to
Hon. John Hill
Question 1. Why did your agency give operating authority to bus
companies without first verifying that the buses they intend to use are
safe to carry passengers? Do you need more resources or authority to
conduct these on-site inspections of new entrants before they hit the
Answer. The current legal requirement for a motor carrier to obtain
operating authority is finding the applicant to be ``willing and able
to perform the operations and to comply with all applicable statutory
and regulatory provisions.'' To be considered fit, an applicant needs
to show compliance with the applicable financial responsibility and
safety fitness requirements. In the past, unless an application was
opposed on the grounds of the applicant not being fit, the authority
was granted. FMCSA depended solely upon protests filed by the public to
identify unfit applicants. This was mostly because during the
application stage, there is little information available to assess
whether a carrier can comply with the regulations. In fact, a carrier
may decide not to purchase or lease vehicles for an operation until
after it is granted authority--wishing to delay investments until it
has the ability to enter the business.
However, the Agency found relying on protests to be insufficient in
identifying passenger carrier applicants that may be unfit. In August
2008, the Agency implemented a more rigorous administrative review
process for new motorcoach operating authority applicants which
compares available applicant information to existing carrier
information to determine if the Agency has any information that
indicates the new carrier may be connected with previous or existing
carriers the Agency has identified as unsafe. An unsafe carrier is one
for which FMCSA has data outlining poor performance during inspections,
a less than satisfactory safety rating, or having been subject to civil
penalties or out-of-service orders from the Agency.
In addition, the application is vetted by FMCSA at the local level
and with the appropriate State agency. If an affiliation with a
motorcoach carrier with an unsafe record is detected through this
vetting process, the applicant is required to provide additional
documentation. The FMCSA will deny authority to any motorcoach carrier
attempting to reestablish itself as a new carrier if it is determined
that it has a previous unsafe record.
The Agency's new entrant safety assurance regulations require all
new motor carriers be subjected to safety monitoring for an 18 month
period following the commencement of operations. As a part of this
safety monitoring, all new motor carriers are subjected to an onsite
safety audit within their first 18 months of operations. In order to
determine if the carrier has established sound safety management
processes, it is necessary for the carrier to generate safety
performance data in the form of roadside inspections, crash reports,
etc., so they need to be operating for a period of time before the
safety audit is scheduled. However, due to the Agency's concern about
passenger carriers, the FMCSA established an internal policy to
complete the new entrant safety audits of passenger carriers within 9
months, rather than the 18 months provided in the originating statute.
In practice, the safety audit of a new motorcoach carrier is conducted
within 4.5 months.
The Agency is also in the process of finalizing revisions to the
New Entrant process in a rule, New Entrant Safety Assurance Process,
which would raise the level of compliance required to pass the safety
audit. The FMCSA expects the final rule to be published the week of
December 15, 2008.
Question 2. The FMCSA began work on a Bus Crash Causation Study in
2004 to analyze different bus crashes and evaluate the factors that
caused them. This study was expected to be completed in 2007; now your
agency is saying November 2008. Has this study been completed yet, and
why is it taking so long to produce?
Answer. The original plan for the Bus Crash Causation Study was to
collect data on 50 to 100 serious bus crashes in the state of New
Jersey in 2005. However, the number of bus crashes was fewer than
expected, so FMCSA extended data collection through 2006. Even then,
there were only 39 crashes in the 2-year period. The Agency expects to
deliver a final report on the study by early 2009.
Response to Written Question Submitted by Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg to
Jacqueline S. Gillan
Question. Which of the safety issues that need improvement in the
bus industry also need to be visited in the trucking industry?
Answer. Almost all safety issues involving the crash protection of
occupants in motorcoach safety that are proposed in the Motorcoach
Enhanced Safety Act of 2008 (the Act) are also needed for large trucks.
For example, insufficient attention has been paid to preventing truck
driver ejection in rollover crashes. A high percentage of truck drivers
who die in rollover crashes are the result of ejection through open
door and shattered glazing, especially side windows. These ejection
deaths can be dramatically reduced through the use of advanced, anti-
ejection glazing and fail-safe latch designs that prevent door openings
in rollover crashes.
Truck drivers are also prone to serious injury from impacts with
dangerous interior surfaces in both straight (single-unit) trucks and
in tractor cabs. Currently, the only safety design feature in large
trucks to protect the truck driver are seat belts, which have a
substantially lower use rate compared to passenger motor vehicles.
Impact mitigation for truck drivers through the use of supplementary,
passive systems such as upper and lower interior air bags has
essentially been ignored by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, although the use of these safety systems in addition to
active restraints (seat belts) would substantially reduce truck driver
injuries with interior surfaces and components.
The Act also provides for required installation of collision
avoidance technologies to reduce motorcoach rollover crashes that
result from driver loss of control. These include electronic stability
control and roll stability control which strongly counteract a
motorcoach's loss of tire adhesion and the driver losing steering and
braking control over the vehicle. These crash avoidance countermeasures
are just as crucially important for large trucks, especially
combination trucks pulling trailers that are highly prone to rollover
and loss of control crashes. Preventing both straight and tractor-
trailer large trucks from loss-of-control events will result in
substantial reductions in rollover crashes, as well as departures from
travel lanes into adjacent lanes, resulting in multiple deaths to
occupants of other vehicles, or into dangerous roadside environments
where the probability of a rollover crash is dramatically increased.
Overall, reducing large truck loss-of-control crashes can substantially
reduce the death toll resulting from large truck collisions with small
passenger motor vehicles. Currently, the overwhelming majority of those
motor vehicle occupants who die in large truck-passenger motor vehicles
are the occupants of the small vehicles. For example, when a single
truck has a fatal crash with a single small passenger motor vehicle, 98
percent of those who die are in the car, van, or pickup truck.
Large trucks also are inadequately regulated at the present time
for the strict oversight needed to ensure that only the safest motor
carriers and drivers operate them. Recent regulations issued by the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have rejected calls
from both the safety and state enforcement communities for more
stringent oversight of commercial driver physical qualifications and
the prevention of medical certificate fraud. FMCSA has also issued a
final rule rejecting the safety community's recommendations that new
motor carrier entrants, including trucking companies, undergo both
proficiency testing and pre-authorization safety audits before
beginning operations in order to ensure that motor carrier management
is familiar with and will comply with all Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Regulations and the Hazardous Materials Regulations.
In addition, commercial drivers of all types of commercial motor
vehicles should be required to undergo rigorous driver training
programs. Unfortunately, FMCSA issued a final rule a few months ago
that requires only a weak, inadequate training for both motorcoach and
Currently, truck drivers under the recent final hours of service
regulation issued in November 2008 by FMCSA are allowed to drive 28
percent more hours and work 40 percent more total hours than allowed
under the pre-2003 hours of service regulation. All truck drivers can
accrue 98 hours of work and 88 hours of driving over 8 consecutive
calendar days, and some truck drivers can legally accrue more than 100
hours of work over this period of time. This regulation exposes drivers
to much more crash risk than under the old regulation while also
promoting more fatigue that will result in reduced alertness and safe
driving performance for truck drivers. The regulation has twice been
overturned in Federal appellate court and remanded to FMCSA, yet the
agency defiantly has re-issued the same regulation again despite court
rulings rejecting the agency's basis for the rule. This rule is a
serious blow to motor carrier safety and must be decisively and finally
It is crucially important to have real-time monitoring and
recordation both of commercial driver hours of service and truck and
motorcoach location and routing. Truck drivers currently falsify their
logbooks on a regular basis to conceal hours of service violations that
amount to dangerous, illegal driving and working hours that cheat on
crucial rest and recovery time needed to restore safe driving
performance. Electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) must be required on
all motorcoaches and large trucks. EOBRs must be linked with engine and
transmission functions and also incorporate Global Positioning Systems
(GPS) that track driver and vehicle location in real time to ensure
rapid responses to emergency events involving motorcoach passengers and
truck crashes, especially truck incidents involving actual or potential
release of placarded amounts of hazardous materials, and to prevent
trucks using illegal routes to transport overweight loads and
prohibited hazardous materials.
Large trucks and motorcoaches also should be required to undergo
annual state inspections that demonstrate for the record the condition
of these vehicles and whether they conform to all safety requirements
established by NHTSA and by FMCSA. Currently, motor carriers can self-
inspect their equipment, and the quality of those inspections to ensure
safe operation of trucks and motorcoaches is unknown because FMCSA does
not audit these self-inspections to determine their adequacy.
Generally speaking, all occupant protection, collision avoidance,
driver oversight, and enforcement requirements for motorcoaches, apart
from those that are unique to these large passenger-carrying buses
(such as passenger evacuation countermeasures), are equally necessary
for large truck safety enhancement. However, both NHTSA and FMCSA have
either delayed or rejected progressive safety regulations that would
reduce both the frequency and severity of large truck crashes and, in
turn, reduce the annual death toll from large truck crashes, which
averages nearly 5,000 fatalities each year.