This could be the Summer of Safety

By David Hubbard

I surmise in another 40 years aging motorcoach operators will have long forgotten the sixties and free love but will remember 2010 as the Summer of Safety.

I surmise in another 40 years aging motorcoach operators will have long forgotten the sixties and free love but will remember 2010 as the Summer of Safety.

President Obama and the Department of Transportation have proposed policy that incorporates a broad spectrum of programs, regulations and rulemaking that ultimately affect motorcoach safety.

Speaking at the Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) summer meeting in June, David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said to the group his agency is broadening its approach to solving persistent safety issues.

“This represents a new way of thinking in Washington,” he says. “This is not only good news for the American way of life, it is pretty good news for the motorcoach business.”

At the request of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for the development of the DOT Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, NHTSA prioritized its agenda.

1. Address the root cause of motorcoach crashes: driver fatigue, inattention, medical conditions and the oversight of unsafe carriers.

2. Address the root cause of fatalities and injuries: vehicle rollover, occupant ejection, structural integrity and fires.
Strickland says improving the structural integrity of the vehicle will ensure adequate survival space for occupants in the event of a rollover. He also suggests strengthening the structure around the windows will help prevent passenger ejections. NHTSA intends to announce its decision on regulatory action regarding the feasibility of performance requirements to improve emergency evacuations, having completed motorcoach emergency egress research at the Volpe research center in January.

Also NHTSA is presently examining the area of improved tire performance on commercial vehicles and expects to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking later this year. It also expects to complete a research program in September that focuses on existing flammability standards and procedures.

LaHood also turned up the heat on enforcement measures to end distracted driving. This led the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to initiate rulemaking to prohibit commercial drivers from texting while driving.

This folds into CSA 2010, the bold initiative FMCSA has just rolled out to develop more effective and efficient methods to reduce commercial crashes, injuries and fatalities. The goal is to better identify and correct chronic and habitual behaviors of high-risk owner-operators and drivers. CSA 2010 intends to improve the productivity from federal and state enforcement officials, requiring their keener attention to compliance, enforcement and remediation efforts for any unsafe behaviors.

“The Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS) replaces the current system, SAFESTAT,” says FMCSA Administrator, Anne S. Ferro. “Using all safety violation data weighted by crash risk, the CSMS component gives our investigators a more robust tool to identify and review high risk carriers. This will be the basis for more effective roadside inspections.”
FMCSA most recently slapped a $72,760 fine on Cayetano Martinez, owner of Tierra Santa Inc, the bus company involved in the fatal crash near Phoenix, AZ in March.
In the wake of a fatal Connecticut school bus crash in January, a sizeable number of highway safety, public health and child protection groups collectively petitioned NHTSA for rulemaking that could mandate seat belts at every seating position on school buses.
If NHTSA grants this petition, the lap-shoulder belt requirement would extend beyond its 2007 call for seatbelts in small school buses to include standard-size vehicles.
All this action, of course, falls on the heels of the NTSB going on record last year to call out NHTSA for what it cited as a decade of unacceptable inaction on previous bus safety recommendations.
Ten years after in the Summer of Safety, it looks like people are finally getting the hint.