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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-10-002
Details
Synopsis: On Friday, January 30, 2009, about 4:06 p.m. mountain standard time, a 2007 Chevrolet/Starcraft 29-passenger medium-size bus, operated by DW Tour and Charter and occupied by the driver and 16 passengers, was traveling northbound in the right lane of U.S. Highway 93, a four-lane divided highway, near Dolan Springs, in Mohave County, Arizona. The bus was on a return trip from Grand Canyon West to Las Vegas, Nevada, after a day-long tour. As the bus approached milepost 28 at a speed of 70 mph,2 it moved to the left and out of its lane of travel. The driver steered sharply back to the right, crossing both northbound lanes and entering the right shoulder. The driver subsequently overcorrected to the left, causing the bus to yaw and cross both northbound lanes. The bus then entered the depressed earthen median and overturned 1.25 times before coming to rest on its right side across both southbound lanes. During the rollover sequence, 15 of the 17 occupants (including the driver) were fully or partially ejected. Seven passengers were killed, and nine passengers and the driver received injuries ranging from minor to serious. At the time of the accident, skies were clear, the temperature was 61° F, and the wind was blowing from the north–northeast at 8 mph.
Recommendation: TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: To maintain consistency in bus body classifications and to clarify the scope of bus safety initiatives, develop regulatory definitions and classifications for each of the different bus body types that would apply to all U.S. Department of Transportation agencies and promote use of the definitions among the bus industry and state governments. (H-10-002 supersedes Safety Recommendations H-99-43 and H-99-44)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Highway
Location: Dolan Springs, AZ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: HWY09MH009
Accident Reports: Bus Loss of Control and Rollover
Report #: HAR-10-01
Accident Date: 1/30/2009
Issue Date: 7/8/2010
Date Closed: 7/22/2014
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: NHTSA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NHTSA
To: NTSB
Date: 4/21/2016
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notice and request for comments, “Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria,” published at 81 Federal Register 23549 (April 21, 2016). The notice concerns NHTSA’s plan to update the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) Guideline. The MMUCC Guideline provides states with a dataset for describing crashes of motor vehicles in transport and was originally developed in response to requests by states interested in improving and standardizing state crash data. The NTSB offers the following suggestions for updating and improving the MMUCC Guideline, based on our recommendations concerning crash data for trailers and bus definitions. Bus Definitions For many years, the NTSB has pressed NHTSA to develop definitions or classifications that could be used by US Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies, industry, or states to provide a consistent nomenclature for the numerous types of bus bodies currently available on the market. In 1999, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations concerning this issue (H 99 43 and -44); then, in 2010, we superseded them with Safety Recommendation H-10-2, which read as follows: To maintain consistency in bus body classifications and to clarify the scope of bus safety initiatives, develop regulatory definitions and classifications for each of the different bus body types that would apply to all US Department of Transportation agencies and promote use of the definitions among the bus industry and state governments. (H-10-2) In 2014, the NTSB classified Safety Recommendation H-10-2 “Closed—Unacceptable Action” because NHTSA had not addressed the issue either as recommended or through an acceptable alternative. The ability to identify the specific type of motor vehicle involved in a crash is crucial for purposes of evaluation and comparison. Differences between the vehicle definitions used by the various DOT agencies and those in the MMUCC create ambiguity in the data. For example, with respect to occupant capacity, the MMUCC defines an “other bus” as a motor vehicle with seating to transport 8 or more people and a “motorcoach” as a bus that seats 16 or more people, including the driver. Both of these MMUCC definitions differ from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard definition of a “bus” as a vehicle that seats more than 10 people. The NTSB continues to believe that there is a need to modify and harmonize the definitions of bus body types. We encourage NHTSA to address this issue during the upcoming revision to the MMUCC Guideline.

From: NTSB
To: NHTSA
Date: 10/4/2014
Response: Correspondence Control # 201400941: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Bus Rollover Structural Integrity, Motorcoach Safety Plan; Proposed Rule,” which was published at 79 Federal Register 46090 on August 6, 2014. The proposed rule is intended to enhance the rollover structural integrity of certain types of large buses—generally, over-the-road buses of any weight (commonly referred to as motorcoaches)—and non-over-the-road buses with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (kg), and proposes a definition for over-the-road buses. Over-the-Road Bus Definition Regulatory definitions influence the nature and scope of public policy decisions. Definitions provide the parameters on which classifications are based; and classifications determine the accident data to be gathered, how the data are analyzed, and how the results are interpreted. The interpretation of these results affects how research funding is allocated and, ultimately, what regulations are enacted. The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21) defined motorcoaches as “over-the-road buses,” which were further defined as “bus[es] characterized by an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment.” In this NPRM, NHTSA proposes to adopt the MAP-21 definition of a motorcoach. In the NPRM, NHTSA states that it believes the vast majority of over-the-road buses have GVWRs greater than 11,793 kg (26,000 pounds); however, NHTSA recognizes that it is possible to design a bus with an elevated passenger deck over a baggage compartment with a GVWR less than 11,793 kg. The NPRM addresses all buses with GVWRs greater than 11,793 kg (except transit buses and school buses) and over-the-road buses with GVWRs less than 11,793 kg. We recognize that this proposed definition of motorcoach is consistent with the one NHTSA used in the 2013 final rule on occupant crash protection. However, the definition provided in the NPRM fails to include a type of bus often used similarly to a motorcoach—medium-size buses weighing less than 26,000 pounds. Such buses are typically built as body on chassis and not with an elevated passenger deck over a baggage compartment, so they do not fall within the “over-the-road bus” definition. We previously raised our concern about this limitation of the motorcoach definition in our comments on NHTSA’s NPRM concerning occupant crash protection for motorcoaches. In our response to the 2010 NPRM, we stated that all buses with GVWRs above 10,000 pounds should be required to meet standards addressing roof strength, occupant protection, and window glazing. However, on November 25, 2013, NHTSA published a final rule that excluded medium size buses from the definition of motorcoaches and thus from the requirement that they be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts. We contend that this is a deficiency in the final rule. As recently as July 22, 2014, we wrote to NHTSA regarding the inconsistent terminology and definitions pertaining to buses and motorcoaches, with respect to the status of Safety Recommendation H-10-2, which asked you to take the following action: H-10-2 To maintain consistency in bus body classifications and to clarify the scope of bus safety initiatives, develop regulatory definitions and classifications for each of the different bus body types that would apply to all US Department of Transportation agencies and promote use of the definitions among the bus industry and state governments. Because the 2013 final rule on occupant protection did not include definitions or classifications for each bus body type that could be used by US Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies, industry, or states, we found that NHTSA had not addressed the issue either as recommended or by an acceptable alternative. We classified Safety Recommendation H 10-2 CLOSED--UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: NTSB
To: NHTSA
Date: 2/10/2014
Response: List of 6 safety recommendations that were referenced in your final rule on occupant crash protection, published on November 25, 2013, which we are currently evaluating; these recommendations will be addressed in detail in separate correspondence. These recommendations included H-90-075, H-99-047, H-99-048, H-05-001, H-10-002, and H-10-003.

From: NTSB
To: NHTSA
Date: 6/7/2011
Response: The NTSB understands that, in the August 18, 2010, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), NHTSA is proposing that a motorcoach be defined as a bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (OVWR) of 26,000 pounds or greater, a seating capacity of 16 or more designated positions including the driver, and at least 2 rows of forward-facing seats rearward of the driver's seating position. The definition further includes buses sold for intercity, tour, and commuter bus service, but does not include school buses or urban transit buses. The NTSB commented on the NPRM that we find this proposed definition to be inadequate as it does not consider other buses, such as those weighing between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds, that are often built, marketed, and used in a manner similar to that of a motorcoach; consequently, such buses (an example would be the bus that was involved in the Dolan Springs accident) would not be required to provide their passengers any form of occupant protection under this proposed rule. The proposed definition would not apply to all DOT agencies to foster more transparent and accurate public policy decisions and eliminate data ambiguity, either. Accordingly, pending the development of standard regulatory definitions and classifications for the remaining bus body types that would provide consistency across DOT agencies, Safety Recommendation H-10-2 remains classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: NTSB
To: NHTSA
Date: 1/11/2011
Response: CC# 201000199/ MC# 2100248: Safety Recommendation H-10-02 was classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE at the NTSB’s June 22, 2010, Board Meeting regarding Dolan Springs, Arizona. Safety Recommendation H-10-002 supersedes Safety Recommendations H-99-43 and H-99-44.

From: NTSB
To: NHTSA
Date: 10/18/2010
Response: Notation 8250A, NPRM Comments October 18, 2010: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Motorcoach Definition; Occupant Crash Protection," which was published at 72 Federal Register 50958 on August 18,2010. The notice proposes to amend the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) on occupant crash protection (FMVSS No. 208) to require lap/shoulder belts for each passenger seating position in new motorcoaches. The notice also proposes to require a lap/shoulder belt for the motorcoach and large school bus driver's seating position, which currently can have either a lap-only belt or a lap/shoulder belt. To accomplish these requirements, the notice also proposes a motorcoach definition. The NTSB supports this rulemaking and is encouraged that NHTSA is moving forward on the November 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. I The NTSB also notes that the proposed rule provides for significant improvements in occupant safety for motorcoach passengers and for drivers of both large school buses and motorcoaches. However, the NTSB notes that the NPRM is inadequate with regard to the motorcoach definition because it does not adequately consider other buses that are often built, marketed, and used in a manner similar to a motorcoach; consequently, such buses would not afford their passengers any required form of occupant protection under this proposed rule. Occupant protection is a comprehensive system involving both proper restraint usage and maintenance of sufficient survival space surrounding each passenger. Motorcoaches and other buses, except school buses, currently lack standards to ensure survival space for restrained occupants in a rollover crash. Although the NTSB is pleased to see NHTSA propose motorcoach passenger lap/shoulder belts, the NTSB also encourages NHTSA to propose motorcoach roof crush performance standards. Occupant Protection Requirements for Motorcoaches The NTSB has long been concerned that motorcoach passengers are not adequately protected in collisions and has issued numerous recommendations since 1968 relating to seat belts and occupant protection systems. Motorcoach occupant protection has been an issue on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements since 2000. Although FMVSSs exist for occupant protection, roof strength, and body joint strength for school buses, no similar standards apply to motorcoaches or other buses, except at the driver's position, where seat belts are required. The NTSB supports the proposal to require lap/shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions in motorcoaches. The NTSB's 1999 special investigation report on bus crashworthiness3 found that one of the primary causes of preventable injury in motorcoach accidents involving a rollover, ejection, or both, is occupant motion out of the seat during a collision when no intrusion occurs into the seating area. In addition, the NTSB concluded that the overall injury risk to occupants in motorcoach accidents involving rollover and ejection may be reduced significantly by retaining the occupant in the seating compartment throughout the collision. The NTSB is pleased that NHTSA is proposing to require lap/shoulder belts at each passenger seating position for motorcoaches, which addresses Safety Recommendations H-99-47 and -48, which were issued as a result of the 1999 special investigation. The NTSB also supports the proposal to require lap/shoulder belts for the driver's position for both large school buses and motorcoaches. The Alton, Texas, accident highlighted the need for upper and lower body restraint for the driver as well as for all passengers. Lap/shoulder belts provide additional restraint for the upper body and, therefore, the NTSB is pleased with NHTSA's proposal to require lap/shoulder belts for the driver's position in both large school buses and motorcoaches, which addresses Safety Recommendation H-90-75. Motorcoach Definition The NPRM proposes that a motorcoach be defined as a bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (OVWR) of 26,000 pounds or greater, a seating capacity of 16 or more designated positions including the driver, and at least two rows of forward-facing seats rearward in the driver's seating position. The definition further specifies that motorcoaches include buses sold for intercity, tour, and commuter bus service but does not include school buses or urban transit buses. The NPRM also notes that "shuttle" buses are not excluded from the motorcoach definition, but requests comments as to whether shuttle buses should be excluded, noting that some traverse substantial distances at highway speeds but that others may be operated in a manner that would make seat belts inappropriate. The NTSB is pleased that NHTSA included the NTSB's discussion and recommendations on recently investigated accidents involving buses that may be referred to as "shuttle" buses and believes that such accidents provide evidence that shuttle buses should be included in the motorcoach definition. Dolan Springs, Arizona The January 30, 2009, Dolan Springs, Arizona, accident 6 involved a 2007 Chevrolet/Starcraft 29-passenger medium-size bus with a GVWR of 19,500 pounds and an overall length of 32 feet. 7 The interior configuration was designed with seven rows of forward-facing motorcoach style seats behind the driver. Overhead luggage racks were located above the seats, and storage space for luggage was provided in the rear of the bus (see figures 1 and 2). In this accident, the bus overturned 1.25 times after it left the roadway and then came to rest on its right side. During the rollover sequence, 15 of the 17 occupants, including the driver, were ejected. Seven passengers were killed and nine passengers and the driver were injured. Lake Placid, Florida In February 2010, the NTSB investigated an accident in Lake Placid, Florida, involving a 2001 Ford/Krystal 32-passenger medium-size bus with a GVWR of 19,000 pounds and an overall length of 33 feet. The interior configuration was designed with eight rows of forward-facing motorcoach style seats behind the driver. Overhead luggage racks were installed above the seats for storage of luggage and personal items. After a collision on the left side with a passenger car, the bus driver swerved to the right. The bus then rolled onto its roof, ejecting, eight passengers, three of whom were killed. Twenty-eight of the 31 occupants were injured. As shown in figure 3, the roof of the Lake Placid bus sustained significant damage during the rollover. Although the interior design of these buses, their use for tour operations, and their 29- and 32-passenger seating capacity would be reasons to categorize them as motorcoaches, such medium-size buses are excluded from the current proposed regulations for passenger (and driver) lap/shoulder belts because of the 26,000-pound GVWR requirement. The NTSB concluded, as a result of the Dolan Springs accident investigation, that because of the lack of Federal standards for occupant protection systems, roof strength, and advanced window glazing, occupants of motorcoaches and medium-size buses (or "shuttle" buses) are similarly at risk of ejection during rollover accidents. Similar "shuttle" or medium-size buses can be built to carry up to 45 passengers and are often marketed as buses that have "big coach features" at an "affordable price.” Although these buses have an interior configuration similar to a motorcoach, are often operated like a motorcoach, and have only a slight reduction in passenger capacity, they are significantly less expensive to purchase. The Dolan Springs accident investigation found the use of these buses increasing due to their ability to generate high revenues, their low retail costs compared to motorcoaches, and their passenger capacity. Simple observation in the downtown Washington, D.C., area highlights the fact that medium-size buses travel long distances carrying paying passengers for sightseeing tours. The NTSB believes that medium-size buses, such as the Dolan Springs and Lake Placid buses, should be included in the motorcoach definition contained in this proposed rulemaking. The NTSB also believes that all buses with a GVWR above 10,000 pounds should be defined and have standards addressing roof strength, occupant protection, and window glazing. An accident that occurred during the comment period for this NPRM provides additional support for the NTSB's belief that shuttle buses including those weighing 26,000 pounds and greater should be included in the proposed rulemaking. The September 29, 2010, Bethesda, Maryland, accident involved a 2006 Freightliner/General Coach America 29 passenger medium-size bus with a GVWR of26,000 pounds and an interior configuration with eight rows of forward-facing motorcoach-style seats behind the driver. Eleven passengers (including one child who was ejected from the bus) sustained injuries when the bus struck a guardrail and a bridge rail and subsequently rolled 360 degrees down a steep bridge embankment. If passenger lap/shoulder belts had been available and worn, passengers would most likely have been retained in their seating compartment throughout the collision, and the injury severity probably would have been reduced. The medium-size bus in the Bethesda accident would qualify as a motorcoach under the proposed definition; consequently, it would be required to have lap/shoulder belts for the driver and all passengers. However, the Dolan Springs bus, which had the same seating capacity, a similar configuration, and a similar use in tour operations but which weighed slightly less than the Bethesda bus, would not be included in the proposed rulemaking. Although the Bethesda and Dolan Springs buses are essentially the same, under the proposed changes to Federal regulations, they would have significantly different levels of occupant protection because of the weight requirement. Comprehensive System of Roof Crush Performance Standards and Occupant Protection Standards Occupant protection is a comprehensive system requiring both proper restraint and maintenance of survival space, which could be compromised without roof crush performance standards. Requiring passenger lap/shoulder belts without also establishing a roof crush performance standard exposes passengers to potential injuries if the roof crushes downward onto the restrained passengers. The Lake Placid accident 15 is a good example of where seat belts alone would not have been an effective occupant protection system because of compromised survival space due to the significant roof crush. A motorcoach overturn in Old Bridge, New Jersey, in which the vehicle sustained significant roof crush and at least one fatality resulted from compressional asphyxia, is another example of where a comprehensive occupant protection system was needed. Roof crush performance standards are essential to protect the occupants of both motorcoaches and other buses. The need for these standards was addressed in both the 1999 special investigation17 and the Dolan Springs accident investigation,18 where the NTSB issued Safety Recommendations H-99-50, -51, and H-10-3 urging NHTSA to develop and require roof strength performance standards. The NTSB encourages NHTSA to propose roof crush performance standards, as detailed in the November 2009 Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, to complete the comprehensive system for occupant protection. Motorcoach roof crush performance standards and standards for passenger lap/shoulder belts should both be mandated to ensure a comprehensive occupant protection system. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this NPRM addressing motorcoach safety and looks forward to working with NHTSA in the near future to address the concerns presented in these comments.

From: NHTSA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/7/2010
Response: MC# 201000405 - From David L. Strickland, Administrator: The safety of buses, motorcoaches, and other high occupancy commercial vehicles is a critical component to fulfilling our mission to prevent deaths and injuries on the nation's roadways. Because these vehicles serve as public transportation systems, there is an expectation that the highest levels of safety stringency be applied, especially since these vehicles often transport our most vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly. NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan 2009-2011 (Docket No. NHTSA-2009-0108) delineates our near-term actions in addressing these populations and vehicle types, and references related NTSB recommendations where appropriate. We are currently in the final process of publishing an update to that Plan for the time period 2010-2013. On August 18 we published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to address issues related to high occupancy vehicle Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), motorcoach definition, and occupant crash protection (see 75 FR 50958, Docket No. NHTSA 2010-0112). The comment period for this NPRM closes on October 18. We highly encourage NTSB to submit comments on this proposed rule so we can incorporate these in our deliberations toward developing a final rule. Additional public documents that detail our vision, plans, and approach to high occupancy vehicle safety include our 2007 "NHTSA's Approach to Motorcoach Safety" (Docket No. NHTSA-2007-28793) and the DOT's 2009 Motorcoach Safety Action Plan (HS 811 177). Recommendation H-10-02 seeks to establish Department of Transportation-wide standard regulatory definitions and classifications for each of the different bus body types. The NPRM currently out for public comment discusses the various definitions of a motorcoach, proposes a definition based on available data and literature, and seeks public comment on our proposed definition. With certain exceptions, we propose that a vehicle be considered a “motorcoach" if it has a GVWR of 26,000 lb or greater, 16 or more designated seating positions, and two or more rows of forward facing seats that were rearward of the driver's seating position. We have reviewed FARS data from 1999-2008 on passenger fatalities in buses coded in FARS as "motorcoach," "other bus," and "transit" in different GVWR categories and found that there were many fewer passenger fatalities in motorcoaches and other buses with a GVWR between 10,000 lb and 26,000 lb in the 10-year period compared to passenger fatalities in those vehicles with a GVWR greater than 26,000 lb. Applying the proposed definition of motorcoach to buses with a GVWR of 26,000 lb or greater addresses vehicles that account for 88 percent of all fatalities in buses with a GVWR greater than 10,000 lb (other than school buses and transit buses) and addresses 89 percent of fatal ejections from such vehicles. We are seeking public comment on this proposed definition and its various aspects.

From: NHTSA
To: NTSB
Date:
Response: We are disappointed that your final rule did not include any definitions or classifications that could be used by DOT agencies, industry, or states to provide a consistent nomenclature for the numerous types of bus bodies currently available on the market. As you have made no progress toward addressing this issue either as recommended or by an acceptable alternative means, Safety Recommendation H-10-2 is classified CLOSED—UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.