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Member Alert: U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Proposal to Require
Passenger Seatbelts on All New Motorcoaches
UMA wants to make its members aware that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a proposal that would require new motorcoaches to have lap-shoulder belts to help prevent driver and passenger ejections during a collision. The proposed rule will take effect three years after the final rule is issued.
In its statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that while motorcoach travel is a very safe mode of highway transportation in the U.S., carrying 750 million passengers annually, an average of 19 motorcoach occupants are killed each year on U.S. roadways. Wearing lap-shoulder belts on motorcoaches could reduce the risk for passengers of being killed in a rollover crash by 77 percent, according to NHTSA.
"We have been expecting this announcement for some time and now that a rule has been proposed, we will help our members navigate through the ruling to ensure compliance," states Victor Parra, UMA President & CEO. "It's important to note that the proposal is for new motorcoaches only, used motorcoaches are not included at this time."
Some items to note from the 90-page proposal include:
A "motorcoach" is defined as a bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds or greater, 16 or more designated seating positions (including the driver), and at least 2 rows of passenger seats rearward of the driver's seating position that are forward-facing or can convert to forward-facing. It does not include school buses or urban transit buses sold for operation as a common carrier in urban transportation along a fixed route with frequent stops. Comments are requested on this proposed definition of "motorcoach."
The current proposal does not include shuttle buses, but comments are requested as to whether shuttle buses should be excluded.
The primary purpose of the proposed rule is reducing passenger and driver ejection. Ejections account for 78% of the fatalities in motorcoach rollover crashes and 28% of fatalities in non-rollover crashes.
It is proposed that lap/shoulder belt anchorage and attachment hardware at all locations for new motorcoaches to meet FMVSS No. 210, "Seat belt assembly anchorages."
The proposal is for lap/shoulder belts to be installed in forward-facing seating position, with the manufacturer having an option of installing either a lap belt or lap/shoulder belt for side-facing designated seating positions.
While the proposal does not currently include retrofitting passenger seating on used motorcoaches, NHTSA is seeking information on the technical and econmic feasibility of a retrofit requirement.
Today's announcement is just the latest initiative from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve motorcoach safety. Earlier this year, the department released a Motorcoach Safety Action Plan offering concrete steps for addressing driver fatigue or inattention and improving operator maintenance. Research for improving motorcoach structure, fire safety protection and emergency egress is also under way, which could lead to recommendations for new federal standards in the future.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking public comment on the proposal for the next 90 days. To view the new proposal, click here. Comments are due on or before October 18, 2010. Comments can be made by following the instructions found at www.regulations.gov.
A more detailed analysis of the proposal will be provided in an upcoming issue of Bus & Motorcoach News.