Hutchison: Congress Must take Action to Improve Bus Safety, Save Passengers’ Lives

March 30, 2011

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C.— During a Committee hearing today to evaluate the safety of American motorcoaches and to discuss ways to safeguard bus passengers, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, urged passage of legislation she has introduced to overhaul bus safety standards.

“Bus safety is a critical transportation issue that has been neglected for too long.  While we cannot prevent all accidents, there is much that we can do at the federal level to help keep bus passengers safe,” said Sen. Hutchison. “It should be clear to everyone in this Congress that motorcoach safety improvements are necessary and must be addressed now.  If we heard news reports about airplane crashes as often as we hear about bus crashes, there would be Congressional outrage.  We should hold buses to the same high safety standards, and I have introduced legislation to improve the safety of commercial bus transportation that will help prevent future crashes and reduce fatalities when accidents occur.”

On March 2, 2011, Sen. Hutchison and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown reintroduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011, which would require DOT to make much-needed upgrades to federal safety standards for motorcoaches, increase driver operating standards and training requirements, and implement important safety-enhancing technologies. In December, 2009, the legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, of which Sen. Hutchison is the ranking member.

The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011 would require:

  • Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
  • Anti-ejection glazing on windows to prevent passengers from being easily thrown outside the motorcoach.
  • Strong, crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers.
  • Improved protection against fires by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior, and better training for operators in the case of fire.
  • Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location, and recorded data not accessible to manipulation by a driver or motor carrier.

Bus travel has outpaced both air and rail transportation as the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation, with more than 723 million passenger trips by bus in 2009.  Despite the announcement of a new Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, the Department of Transportation has not yet acted on many basic passenger safety protections that have been recommended for years by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).