Highway Special Investigation Report - Selective Motorcoach Issues

NTSB Number: SIR-99-01
NTIS Number: PB99-917001
Adopted February 11, 1999
PDF

Synopsis

In an average year, more than 360 million bus passengers travel 28 billion passenger miles in North America. The motorcoach industry estimates that more than 30,000 commercial buses are presently in use for charters, tours, regular route service, and special operations in North America. According to industry estimates, 4,000 motorcoach companies are operating in the United States. Bus accident statistics are limited; however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data for 1993 to 1997 indicates that 141 motorcoaches were involved in accidents that, in total, resulted in the deaths of 21 occupants and injuries to 442 occupants.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated two accidents in 1995 and 1997 that are typical of the motorcoach accidents that it has investigated over the years. On October 14, 1995, a 1989 Eagle motorcoach operated by Hammond Yellow Coach Line, Inc., (Hammond) and occupied by a driver and 40 members of a high school booster club overturned when it entered an Interstate (I)-70 exit ramp in Indianapolis, Indiana. Two passengers sustained fatal injuries, 13 sustained serious injuries, and 26 received minor injuries.

On July 29, 1997, a 1985 Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) motorcoach operated by Rite-Way Trans-portation, Inc., (Rite-Way) and occupied by a driver and 34 members of a tour group drifted off the side of I-95 near Stony Creek, Virginia, and down an embankment into the Nottoway River, where it came to rest on its left side. One passenger sustained fatal injuries, the driver and 3 passengers sustained serious injuries, and 28 passengers sustained minor injuries.

These accidents involved factors that the Safety Board has repeatedly identified as being issues in accidents and having the potential for catastrophic consequences, namely driver fatigue and poorly maintained or out-of-adjustment brakes. In both cases, the carriers involved had satisfactory safety ratings. The Safety Board therefore examined the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) safety fitness criteria for motorcoaches. The Safety Board is convinced that had a more restrictive compliance review process been in place for motorcoaches, these and other accidents may not have occurred.

This special investigation report includes detailed descriptions of these two motorcoach accidents and discussions of the following safety issues:

  • busdriver fatigue,
  • Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) safety rating methodology,
  • emergency egress, and
  • passenger safety briefings.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA, the American Bus Association, and the United Motorcoach Association.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following Safety Recommendations:

To the Department of Transportation:

Require that the Federal Highway Administration's fatigue video that is being developed for motorcoaches discuss the dangers of inverted dutysleep periods. (H-99-4)

In the assessment that is mandated by the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century, include the inverted work schedules of motorcoach carriers in the study of how the operations of shippers, brokers, freight forwarders, consignees, or others, such as tour or charter operators, encourage the violations of the hours-of-service rules. (H-99-5)

Change the safety fitness rating methodology so that adverse vehicle or driver performance-based data alone are sufficient to result in an overall unsatisfactory rating for the carrier.(H-99-6)

Provide guidance on the minimum information to be included in safety briefing materials for motorcoach operations. (H-99-7)

Require motorcoach operators to provide passengers with pretrip safety information. (H-99-8)

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Revise the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217, "Bus Window Retention and Release," to require that other than floor-level emergency exits can be easily opened and that they remain open during an emergency evacuation when a motorcoach is upright or at unusual attitudes. (H-99-9)

To the American Bus Association:

Alert your members to the dangers of inverted duty-sleep periods. (H-99-10)

Encourage your members to revise their scheduling practices to avoid inverted duty-sleep periods or to provide a well-rested relief driver if the schedule requires alternate night driving. (H-99-11)

Include an explanation of the dangers of inverted duty-sleep periods in the busdriver fatigue training video currently under production. (H-99-12)

Encourage your members to provide pretrip passenger safety briefings. (H-99-13)

Encourage your members to develop training programs for their drivers on how to make pretrip passenger safety briefings. (H-99-14)

To the United Motorcoach Association:

Alert your members to the dangers of inverted duty-sleep periods. (H-99-15)

Encourage your members to revise their scheduling practices to avoid inverted duty-sleep periods or to provide a well-rested relief driver if the schedule requires alternate night driving. (H-99-16)

Encourage your members to provide pretrip passenger safety briefings. (H-99-17)

Encourage your members to develop training programs for their drivers on how to make pretrip passenger safety briefings. (H-99-18)