Committee Approves Bus Safety Bill

Measure Would Overhaul Nation’s Motorcoach Safety Standards

December 17, 2009

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ranking Member on the Committee, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to overhaul motorcoach safety regulations and dramatically reduce deaths and serious injuries caused by accidents.

“This comprehensive legislation will overhaul the nation’s motorcoach safety standards,” said Senator Hutchison. “Studies show that key safety improvements, such as requiring seat belts and stronger crush-resistant roof standards that allow motorcoaches to better withstand rollovers, can dramatically improve bus safety. The bill would also help stop ‘reincarnated’ carriers that are taken out of service and then quickly begin operating under a new name. This was one of the issues that led to the tragic 2008 Sherman, Texas accident that claimed 17 lives.” 

“Today, we remember the Bluffton University baseball players and their families as we move one step closer to passing comprehensive motorcoach safety legislation,” Sen. Brown said. “We cannot wait until motorcoaches are on the road to worry about safety— we need to do so before they are built. By equipping buses with seatbelts, stronger roofs, and safer windows, we can prevent deaths and minimize injuries. With bus ridership increasing, it’s more important than ever to pass this legislation. We need to ensure bus trips don’t turn into tragedies.” 

Senator Hutchison and Senator Brown first introduced this legislation in 2007 in response to several serious accidents that resulted in numerous fatalities. The incidents called into question the safety of both the vehicles and the drivers. Half of all motorcoach fatalities over the past 10 years have occurred as a result of rollovers, and 70 percent of the individuals killed were ejected from the bus.

The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009 (S. 554) would require:

Safety belts to ensure occupants are not ejected in a crash; 

Electronic stability control technology;

Improved crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers;

Anti-ejection glazing on windows to prevent passengers from being easily ejected from the motorcoach; 

A comprehensive evaluation of improved protection against fires by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior, better training for operators in the case of fire, and review of fire safety technologies by NHTSA, followed by new performance standards based on the results of NHTSA’s evaluation;

All new motorcoach operators to undergo on-site pre-authorization safety audit before they could begin operations, and would be subject to safety audit within 9 months;

Improved commercial driver training;

Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) on all motorcoaches for the purpose of complying with federal hours of service regulations;

An assessment of whether all states should have a motorcoach inspection program;

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to issue a rule prohibiting the use of distracting devices (cell phones, text messaging devices); and

All individuals seeking to register commercial motorcoaches to disclose all previous material relationships to other motorcoach companies for the past three years (stopping reincarnated motorcoaches).