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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-10-005
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: Develop stability control system performance standards applicable to newly manufactured buses with a gross vehicle weight rating above 10,000 pounds. (Superseded by H-11-7)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Superseded
Mode: Highway
Location: Dolan Springs, AZ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: 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: 9/2/2011
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: NHTSA (Closed - Superseded)
Keyword(s): Stability

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 8/9/2012
Response: Notation 8429: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 136, Electronic Stability Control Systems for Heavy Vehicles, as published in Volume 77 of the Federal Register on May 23, 2012. The proposed rule would require truck tractors and certain buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with an electronic stability control (ESC) system meeting specified equipment and performance criteria. The NTSB has long advocated the study and implementation of crash avoidance technologies, such as ESC, to assist drivers in maintaining control of commercial motor vehicles. As a result of our investigation of a multivehicle collision in Slinger, Wisconsin, in February 1997, the NTSB recommended that NHTSA conduct research to evaluate the benefits of adding traction control devices to antilock brake systems (H-98-9). Based on NHTSA research for the current rulemaking effort, the NTSB classified this recommendation "Closed-Acceptable Action" in January 2012. In the investigation of a seven-fatal mid-size bus rollover accident in Dolan Springs, Arizona, in January 2009, the NTSB addressed the benefits of equipping buses with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds with stability control systems and issued Safety Recommendations H -10-5 and -6 to NHTSA: Develop stability control .system performance standard) applicahle to newly manufactured buses with a gross vehicle weight rating above 10, 000 pounds. (H-10-5) Once the performance standards from Safety Recommendation H-10-5 have been developed, require the installation of stability control systems in all newly manufactured buses in which this technology could have a safety benefit. (H-10-6) Upon completion of another commercial vehicle rollover accident investigation-in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October 2009, involving the rollover of a cargo tank trailer carrying liquefied petroleum gas and a subsequent fire3-the NTSB closed Safety Recommendations H-10-5 and -6 and issued superseding and broader Safety Recommendations H-11-7 and -8 to NHTSA: Develop stability control system performance standards for all commercial motor vehicles and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10, 000 pounds, regardless of whether the vehicles are equipped with a hydraulic or a pneumatic brake system. (H-11-7) Once the performance standards from Safety Recommendation H-II-7 have been developed, require the installation of stability control systems on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10, 000 pounds. (H-11-8) In the Indianapolis investigation, the NTSB also concluded that a retrofit for stability control systems would be advantageous given the long service life of cargo tank trailers and the potential safety risks posed by the hazardous materials they typically transport. And, because roll stability control (RSC) systems do not require the same integrated sensors and communication systems as ESC, making them more feasible to install as a retrofit, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation H-11-3 to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: Require all in-use cargo tank trailers with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10, 000 pounds to be retrofitted with a rollover stability control system. (H-1l-3) The proposed rule has assessed the benefits of ESC versus RSC systems, acknowledging that RSC systems lack the ability to affect the directional control of a vehicle in situations of potential rollover. The NTSB agrees with NHTSA that there are additional benefits of ESC over RSC and applauds the research and testing that NHTSA conducted to come to this conclusion. Although NHTSA found that RSC on trailers would save fewer than 10 lives per year and would not be cost beneficial, the NTSB stands by Safety Recommendation H-1l-3 for cargo tank trailers to be retrofitted with RSC systems due to the high potential they hold for catastrophic damage and loss of life in the event of a hazardous materials release. The NTSB recognizes that FMVSS No.l26 requires ESC systems to be in place on light vehicles, and the proposed rulemaking extends the requirement for ESC systems to a large number of heavy vehicles. However, between the upper bounds of FMVSS No. 126, a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, and the lower bounds of the proposed FMVSS No.136, a GVWR of 26,000 pounds, there is a gap where stability control systems will not be required. A vehicle type within this gap that is of particular interest to the NTSB is mid-size buses. The Dolan Springs bus, a mid-size bus with a GVWR of 19,500 pounds, would not be covered in the proposed ESC rulemaking. During its Dolan Springs investigation, the NTSB estimated that the production volume of mid-size buses was 11,600 units per year, on average. Mid-size buses, which are used to transport groups of 16-40 people, should be held to the same--if not higher standards than vehicles used to transport cargo. Mid-size buses also have higher centers of gravity than many other passenger-carrying vehicles, making them more prone to rollover, and therefore more likely to benefit from rollover prevention technologies. The proposed rule also does not address ESC systems for other types of buses, and instead proposes exemptions for buses with fewer than 16 seating positions, buses with limited forward-facing seating configurations (such as limo-buses), urban transit buses, and school buses. We understand that certain exemptions to the rule may be required for slow-moving or specialty vehicles, but when it comes to vehicles that transport people, especially children, the NTSB encourages NHTSA to be as far-reaching as possible when implementing life-saving safety technologies such as ESC. The proposed rule also excludes medium-duty and single-unit trucks, which could benefit from stability control systems. As pointed out in the proposed rulemaking, a safety benefit study applicable to such commercial vehicles is underway, and ESC systems are still in development for medium-duty trucks and buses equipped with hydraulic brakes. The NTSB is pleased to see that steps are underway to equip the largest populations within the commercial vehicle fleet with stability control systems without waiting for their availability on all types of vehicles, but we will continue to advocate that this safety technology be universal. As recognized in the proposed rule, the NTSB has also issued safety recommendations on collision warning with active braking and adaptive cruise control systems, for which ESC systems are required as a baseline technology to enable vehicle braking without driver input. In 2001, the NTSB published a Special Investigation Report of nine rear-end accidents in which 20 people died and 181 were injured,5 and issued Safety Recommendations H-01-6 and -7 to NHTSA: Complete rule making on adaptive cruise control and collision warning system performance standards for new commercial vehicles. At a minimum, these standards should address obstacle detection distance, timing of alerts, and human factors guidelines, such as the mode and type of warning. (H-01-6) After promulgating performance standards for collision warning systems for commercial vehicles, require that all new commercial vehicles be equipped with a collision warning system. (H-Ol-7) At the conclusion of the investigation of an October 2005 accident near Osseo, Wisconsin-involving the rollover of a truck-tractor semitrailer combination unit, which was subsequently struck by a motorcoach-in which 5 people died and 36 were injured,6 the NTSB reiterated Safety Recommendations H-0l-6 and -7 and issued Safety Recommendation H-08-15 to NHTSA: Determine whether equipping commercial vehicles with collision warning systems with active braking and electronic stability control systems will reduce commercial vehicle accidents. If these technologies are determined to be effective in reducing accidents, require their use on commercial vehicles. (H-08-15) We believe that the advancement of crash avoidance and mitigation technologies is dependent on equipping the entire commercial vehicle population with ESC. The NTSB understands that ESC alone cannot prevent all accidents and that conditions such as aggressive steering inputs, excessive speed, and shifting loads limit its effectiveness. For this reason, we encourage NHSTA to not only continue moving forward on accident prevention technologies, but also to develop rollover performance standards to ensure that the static rollover stability of commercial vehicles is considered and optimized in the design and manufacturing stages. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this notice. Although we are encouraged by the proposed rulemaking and its effect on a large population of commercial motor vehicles, our open safety recommendations to NHTSA with regard to stability control systems include all commercial motor vehicles and buses with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds. Well-designed technology can improve driver performance and overall highway safety, and we will continue to support the development and requirement of such systems until a universal level of safety is realized.

From: NTSB
Date: 9/2/2011
Response: From the Greensheet issuing Safety Recommendations H-11-7 through H-11-12 to NHTSA concerning the October 22, 2009 rollover of a truck-trailer combination loaded with liquefied petroleum gas in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NTSB has long advocated the study and implementation of advanced crash avoidance technologies to assist drivers in maintaining control of commercial motor vehicles. For example, the NTSB recommended, as a result of its investigation of a 2009 bus rollover in Dolan Springs, Arizona, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develop performance standards and ultimately require that all newly manufactured buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds be equipped with stability control systems. Separate rulemakings may be required to equip all commercial motor vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds with such systems because some vehicles have hydraulic brakes and others have pneumatic brakes, which use different components and approaches to modulate, maintain, and release the pressurized fluid or air sent to the foundation brakes to prevent wheel lockup. Therefore, the NTSB recommends that NHTSA develop stability control system performance standards for all commercial motor vehicles and buses with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds, regardless of whether the vehicles are equipped with a hydraulic or a pneumatic brake system (H-11-7); and, once the performance standards have been developed, require the installation of stability control systems on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds (H-11-8). As a result of these new recommendations to NHTSA, the NTSB reclassifies Safety Recommendations H-10-5 and -6 CLOSED--SUPERSEDED. H-11-7 supersedes H-10-5 and H-11-8 supersedes H-10-6.

From: NTSB
Date: 6/7/2011
Response: The NTSB is pleased that NHTSA plans to publish an NPRM on stability control for both truck tractors and motorcoaches in 2011. Although the GVWR is not indicated for this rulemaking, NHTSA also plans to make an agency decision in 2014 regarding rulemaking for medium truck and bus stability control that would include all vehicles over 10,000 pounds not included in the truck tractors and motorcoaches rulemaking activity. These NTSB safety recomn1endations focus on buses; however, we encourage NHTSA to continue its development of performance standards and installation requirement for stability control systems on trucks and buses with a GVWR above 10,000 pounds. Pending completion of the recommended actions, Safety Recommendations H-10-5 and -6 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

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). H-10-05 and -06 direct NHTSA to develop stability control system performance standards for newly manufactured buses with a GVWR above 10,000 lb, and to then require the installation of such systems in all newly manufactured buses in which this technology could have a safety benefit. Our current efforts include development of test procedures in support of a potential standard on electronic stability control systems aimed at addressing rollover and loss of control crashes in heavy commercial vehicles, including truck tractors, single-unit trucks, buses, motorcoaches, etc. The 2009-2011 Priority Plan indicated our intent to publish a NPRM in 2010. The 2010-2013 Priority Plan update will provide insight into our planned rulemaking timeframe.