WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today marked up legislation introduced by Ranking Member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to strengthen bus safety and improve driver training to reduce the number of motorcoach crashes and related fatalities. S. 453, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011, was passed by the Committee. During the executive session, Committee members also considered and passed S. 275, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011.
“Bus travel has far outpaced both air and rail transportation as the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation for the third year in a row. The total number of intercity bus passengers is approaching that of commercial airlines in the United States. Despite announcing a Motorcoach Safety Action Plan in 2009, the Department of Transportation has not yet acted on many of the basic passenger safety protections that have been recommended for years by the National Transportation Safety Board,” said Sen. Hutchison.
“Our legislation would make several commonsense safety improvements, such as requiring safety belts on all new buses and providing stronger windows and crush-resistant roofs to protect passengers in the event of a crash. Our bill would also address the issue of “reincarnated” carriers, where a bus company is taken out of service and then quickly begins operating under a new name. This comprehensive approach would bring needed enhancements to buses, and it should be considered by the full Senate without delay,” Sen. Hutchison said.
Senator Hutchison has previously noted that if Congress heard about airplane crashes as often as motorcoach crashes, there would be congressional outrage.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, introduced by Sens. Brown and Hutchison, would require:
- Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
- Improved motorcoach driver training. Currently, no training is required by federal regulation.
- 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.
- A National Commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry to ensure that only medically qualified examiners conduct physical examinations of drivers and a medical certificate process to ensure that all certificates are valid and no unqualified operator is allowed to drive.
- Strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety inspections including roadside inspections, safety audits, and state and motor carrier programs for identifying vehicle defects.
- Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location that cannot be tampered with by the driver.
The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 would help mitigate pipeline risks by reauthorizing and strengthening DOT’S Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2014.
“Recent pipeline accidents throughout the country, including in my home state of Texas, have reinforced the need to keep our nation’s pipeline infrastructure safe. I thank the Chairman for working to address many of the stakeholder concerns with this bill, and I look forward to working together to make further improvements once this bill gets to the Senate floor,” said Sen. Hutchison.