The BISC Report presented by The Pacific Western Group of Companies
Safety is not a Laugh-In matter — and that’s the truth!
The “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award” handed out on the 1960s TV show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In lambasted celebrities and organizations that had done something questionable. Sorry, but I’m thinking the bus and motorcoach industry might qualify.
Oh sure, we can rattle off all the right catch phrases — the importance of safety; how we put safety first and how passenger safety is our number one priority. But when it comes to walking the walk, it is apparent that many of us are not paying attention to the two simple steps we must take.
1. Provide pre-trip safety briefings to our passengers.
2. Train drivers to manage on road passenger transfers and emergency evacuations.
These two procedures are not particularly complex or difficult. They don’t cost much, and large and small operators alike can carry them out.
So why the inconsistency? Maybe we just don’t think anything will happen to us. Bad stuff only happens to those operators who skip steps, cut corner and put themselves at risk. Right? Besides, why bother going through the motions when our passengers never seem to care much and pay little attention during the briefing?
The dangers are real and the consequences can be deadly.
The fact is, the reason drivers think no one is listening and the briefings are not working is because people under stress quite often default to what has been repeatedly drilled into their consciousness. It may seem like they are not listening, but the message is seeping in — and will make all the difference in circumstances where they need this information.
The reality is that despite the best of intentions of the best operators, every day throughout North America hundreds of buses and motorcoaches become disabled on the side of the road. Some only need to transfer passengers to another bus, while others may require an emergency evacuation. Nonetheless, in any situation passengers must have some idea for what to do, and someone to lead and manage the necessary procedures. Even those simple passenger transfers on the side of the road carry a huge potential for disaster from passing vehicles. The dangers are real; the consequences can turn deadly.
The NTSB investigation into a tragic 2014 multi-fatality crash involving a tractor-trailer unit and a motorcoach found that many passengers in the smoke and heat of the post-crash fire became confused and panicked. I know firsthand how this feels. Years ago during my aviation safety training, I attended an FAA Cabin Safety workshop and can still vividly remember how disorienting, confusing and stressful it is trying to evacuate a cabin full of smoke.
As chair of BISC, I threw down the gauntlet in January during ABA Marketplace and challenged the more than 200 ABA, BISC and IMG representatives to set a worthier example for the industry. My challenge to them was to go back to their organizations and ensure:
1. Operators conduct comprehensive pre-trip passenger safety briefings more effectively with greater consistency.
2. Drivers know how to manage transfers and evacuations by protecting the scene, directing passengers and ensuring they gather together in a safe area.
I will follow up at our BISC summer meeting in June by asking for their reports. My guess is that many will find that although they have policies and procedures in place, operators are not carrying them consistently in the real world.
Let’s face it, safety issues are often complex, confusing, technical, and occasionally even a little mystical. But, these two simple steps are not. Carrying them out will save lives. Helpful resources such as pamphlets, seat-back cards, audio messages and DVD videos are available from either the FMCSA or ABA/BISC websites.
“And that’s the truth!” — to quote Lily Tomlin’s Laugh-In character Edith Ann.
The Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) is an affiliate in the American Bus Association (ABA) group of councils created to elevate the level of safety in the intercity bus and motorcoach industry through the collaborative efforts of all professionals committed to the highest standards of action and conduct in all operations.
Stephen Evans serves as vice president of safety, Pacific Western Group of Companies, Calgary, AB, Canada. As presenting sponsor of the BISC report, Pacific Western
operates more than 3,000 buses in motorcoach, transit, and school bus operations throughout Canada, for which safety is first on the list of core values that define every action and decision in support of its 4,100 employees and customers, and ensures at the end of the day everyone always returns Safely Home.