DOT has new action plan to address motorcoach safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday, Dec. 16, released its Motorcoach Safety Action Plan that it says lays out concrete steps for improving motorcoach safety across the board. The action plan addresses major safety issues such as driver fatigue and inattention, vehicle rollover, occupant ejections and oversight of unsafe carriers.

“We are committed to making sure that bus travelers reach their destinations safely,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These improvements will not only help reduce the number of motorcoach crashes, it will also help save lives and reduce injuries.”

While motorcoach travel carries 750 million passengers annually, an average of 19 motorcoach occupants are killed in crashes each year, according to data collected by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additional fatalities result among pedestrians, as well as occupants of other vehicles involved in these crashes. To address this issue, LaHood directed DOT’s agencies to take a fresh look at motorcoach safety issues, identify actions to address outstanding safety problems, and develop an aggressive schedule to implement those actions.

The comprehensive action plan proposes enhanced regulatory oversight of new and high-risk motorcoach operators, as well as the increased use of new technologies. To address driver distraction, it proposes to initiate rulemaking to prohibit texting and limit the use of cellular telephones and other devices by motorcoach drivers. It also discusses enhanced oversight of unsafe carriers and requiring electronic onboard recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers’ duty hours to address fatigue.

In addition, the action plan proposes to better protect motorcoach occupants by requiring the installation of seatbelts and discusses additional measures such as the establishment of performance requirements for enhanced roof strength, fire safety and emergency egress. It also calls for safety improvements using technologies such as electronic stability control to prevent rollovers.