Posts Tagged ‘Commercial Vehicles’

Debate Over Seat Belts on Buses

On Feb. 4, 2015, H.B. 2582 was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. This bill states, “Beginning July 1, 2015, the state board of education shall install seat belts in school buses over a five-year period, until all school buses are outfitted with seat belts, which seat belts shall meet the standards set and approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.” The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and then the House Committee on Finance. This bill was reintroduced during the 2016 legislative session on Jan. 13 of this year. It was then referred to the House Committee on Education. The head sponsor of the bill is Delegate Nancy Peoples Guthrie, D-Kanawha. Other sponsors of the bill are Delegates Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, Dana Lynch, D-Webster, Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, and Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha. Mark R. Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA), talked about seat belts on school buses in a speech he made in November 2015 at the 41st summit of the National Association for Pupil Transportation. “The NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow school bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt. School buses should have seat belts. Period,” Rosekind said. Rosekind also said in his speech that the NHTSA will launch a series of research projects to study the safety benefits of seat belts, and it will contact governors of the states that require seat belts to nominate participants to give recommendations on how to start a nationwide “seat belts on school buses” movement, which will study how to overcome financial difficulties associated with installing seat belts on school buses. The big question in this debate is whether seat belts on school buses will help or hurt students. From 2004 to 2013 there were 340,039 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes and 0.4 percent, or 1,214, of these were school transportation-related. A total of 1,344 people, or an average of 134 people a year, were killed during this time period nationwide in school transportation-related crashes, according to the NHTSA. Of the people who died, 8 percent were occupants of school transportation vehicles and 71 percent were occupants of other vehicles. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas are the only states that have some type of seat belt law for school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislators’ website. The NHTSA has done research about seat belts on school buses. What do officials think in the Marion County area about installing seat belts on school buses? “The school buses themselves, the frame is reinforced steel built for safety purposes,” said Chad Norman, administrative assistant in charge of transportation. “They have found that the cabin that students sit in, with the high seat in front of them and the high seat in back of them, actually prevents major injuries. “In the event that we have a situation, students could exit quickly without being belted in and the driver having to come and actually unbelt each one of the students.” The concern about students being belted in is that in certain situations, like a rollover accident, or a bus entering water, the seat belts “could present a safety issue,” Norman said. Once the NHTSA has conducted its research, “it’ll be interesting to see what their studies show — first determining if it is indeed a need,” Norman said. School buses have other features that offer safety, according to Ron Schmuck, transportation supervisor for Marion County Schools. “The floors of the bus sit high enough and the seating compartment is above where most accidents are happening. An accident would happen under the floor due to the height of the buses. It lessens the impact of any passengers on it,” Schmuck said. Some Marion County bus drivers are also against installing seat belts on buses. “They would be a dangerous weapon,” Roger Stover, a bus driver for 41 years, said, referring to students hitting each other with the seat belts. “If we have to evacuate that bus in a hurry for some ungodly reason, it’s going to present a problem, especially with the little ones. I’m strictly against them,” Stover said. “If a bus would be in an accident that the bus would be on its side or its top, the latch (of the seat belts) isn’t coming off. Now you’re going to have to cut every child loose. Especially if there is a fire on the bus, you couldn’t get them all off,” said Terry Markley, a bus driver for 20 years in Marion County. The NHTSA has done research about seat belts on school buses that concludes there may be some benefit to using lap/shoulder belts. In 2002, the NHTSA presented a report to Congress that concluded that using lap belts has “little, if any, benefit in reducing serious-to-fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes.” “The use of combination lap/shoulder belts, if used properly, could provide some benefit on both large and small school buses. Lap/shoulder belts can be misused if children put the shoulder portion behind them. NHTSA’s testing showed that serious neck injury and perhaps abdominal injury could result when lap/shoulder belts are misused. Assuming 100 percent usage and no misuse, lap/shoulder belts could save one life a year,” the NHTSA said in the report.

NHTSA to Require ESC for Commercial Trucks and Buses

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued its long-awaited final rule to require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on Class 7-8 trucks and large buses.  The rule, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 136, will take effect for “most heavy trucks” in 2017, according NHTSA. The agency said that compliance will be achieved using a “J-turn” test that replicates a curved highway off-ramp.   “ESC is a remarkable safety success story, a technology innovation that is already saving lives in passenger cars and light trucks,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said upon introducing the new rule on June 3. “Requiring ESC on heavy trucks and large buses will bring that safety innovation to the largest vehicles on our highways, increasing safety for drivers and passengers of these vehicles and for all road users.” According to NHTSA, the mandate was needed because “ESC works instantly and automatically to maintain directional control in situations where the driver’s own steering and braking cannot be accomplished quickly enough to prevent the crash.”  The agency stated that implementing “ESC will prevent up to 56 percent of untripped, rollover crashes– that is, rollover crashes not caused by striking an obstacle or leaving the road.” NHTSA estimates the rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries and 49 fatalities annually. The American Trucking Association said it welcomed the mandate. “Ensuring the safety of America’s highways has always been ATA’s highest calling,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “and we’ve long known the positive role technology can play in making our vehicles and our roads safer. Today’s announcement by NHTSA will reduce crashes on our highways and make our industry safer.”  “Last month, NHTSA reported to Congress that truck rollover and passenger ejection were the greatest threats to truck driver safety,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki. “We can save lives by preventing rollovers with electronic stability control technology, and that’s a positive for our industry. Many fleets have already begun voluntarily utilizing this technology and this new requirement will only speed that process.”

NTSB Recommends “Hands-Free” Ban for Truckers

On May 28, 2013 a Mack truck hauling debris to a local recycling center pulled into the path of an oncoming moving train shortly before 2 p.m. The resulting collision caused 15 cars in the 45-car train to derail, including three carrying hazardous waste.  The final conclusions of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board shows that the driver of the truck had failed to stop at the crossing despite repeated horn blasts from the locomotive. The NTSB cited several causative or contributing factors including: The driver had failed to disclose to federal regulators that he suffered from “severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea” which likely affected his alertness. The driver’s employer had a poor safety record.  And the sight distance at the crossing was diminished, in part, by vegetative growth that needed to be trimmed back. There was another important factor; at the time of the crash the driver had been engaged in a conversation on his cell phone. Although he was using it in a “hands-free” mode, investigators concluded that the phone had been a distraction. Based on that finding, as well as other crash investigations, the NTSB has recommended that truck drivers not be allowed to use hands-free portable electronic devices while operating a vehicle except in an emergency. In further support of NTSB’s recommendation, several recent studies have concluded that hands-free cellular operation does not reduce the frequency of accidents.  Distracted driving continues to be a problem. While commercial vehicle operators are hardly alone in this, accidents involving tractor-trailers are far more likely to be deadly than those involving other types of vehicles — that’s just the physics of 80,000-pounds of rolling metal versus a two-ton car.

Proposed NHTSA Regulations to Protect Passengers in Motorcoaches and Large Buses

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard to protect motorcoach and other large bus passengers in rollover crashes.  The proposal aims to improve the structural design to ensure that passengers are better protected in rollover crashes by ensuring the space around them remains intact and the emergency exits remain operable. The proposed standard would establish performance requirements that each new motorcoach and large bus must meet when subjected to a dynamic test in which the motorcoach or bus is tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface.  The proposed standard would:
  • Required space around occupant seating positions be maintained to afford occupants survivable space in a crash
  • Requires seats, overhead luggage racks and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after testing; and
  • Require emergency exits to remain closed during the rollover test and operable after test.
Both the proposed test procedure and performance requirements are closely modeled after European regulations for large buses.  In a separate rulemaking action to improve safety even further, NHTSA is planning on finalizing requirements later this year for stability control technologies in these vehicles, which would help prevent rollovers from occurring. “Approximately 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year.  Raising the standard for motorcoache’s durability, in the event of a crash, is critical to saving the lives of the passengers inside.” said FMCSA Administrator Ann Ferro.  “In addition to taking critical steps to improve the structural design of buses, we are committed to further increasing motorcoach safety through stricter oversight, in-depth investigations into high risk companies, and by ensuring that drivers are properly licensed and medically fit for the job.” To read more visit the following link: NPRM