Legislative wheels turn slowly, but five years removed from a March 2007 bus crash that killed five members of the Bluffton University baseball team and two others, a bill called the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act cleared the U.S. Senate last week as part of a larger transportation jobs bill.
Introduced by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (a Democrat from Bluffton's home state of Ohio) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (a Texas Republican), the bill now moves toward debate in the House. Based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act would require:
• Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.• Improved commercial driver training. Currently, no training is required by federal regulation.• Anti-ejection glazing 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.
"These safety measures are common-sense safety features that have been widely used," Brown stated in a press release posted on his website. "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."
Team travel has long been a recommended buses for all team travel, even for short trips.