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Speeches

Closing statement, Board Meeting Amphibious Passenger Vehicle Crash
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Boardroom
11/15/2016

In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this report, and to thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process. I would also like to thank Adrienne Lamm, whose presentation today on the axle failure was her first in a Board meeting. Well done Adrienne. I’d also like to thank Brian Bragonier also presenting for the first time in a board meeting. Good job Brian.

APVs, or “Duck Boats,” provide a unique sightseeing option in many American cities. Yet until now, these vehicles have been operated without any regulatory oversight when driven on our roads and highways.

A tourist who travels on a commercial vehicle to the starting point of an APV tour enjoys many safety protections, among them occupant protection and manufacturing oversight.  Upon boarding the APV, however, those protections are lost.

In this crash, we also saw that these loopholes can have tragic effects not only upon the APV passengers, but upon  occupants of any other vehicles that happen to be nearby.

Today’s recommendations, if acted upon, will help close these loopholes. Most specifically, they will result in the remediation of the safety defect in “stretch ducks” that this investigation uncovered.

But they will also result in placing the manufacture of APVs under the purview of NHTSA. As such they will be subject to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and all other applicable regulations, including NHTSA’s safety recall process.

The Safety Alert that we are publishing with these recommendations will educate other APV operators about the circumstances of this and other APV accidents. This unique form of transportation merits specific practices.

For example, distraction can play a particularly important role for operators of such vehicles. Since the crash that we discussed today, Ride the Ducks Seattle has added a second operator to serve as a tour guide on its tours.

Route selection can also play an important part in the safety of duck boat riders, and Ride the Ducks Seattle has also altered its routes.

And, if passengers are afforded the protection of seat-belts on land, safety briefings are needed for the water portion of a journey – where it is safer to travel without seatbelts fastened.

Duck boats offer sightseers the opportunity to view cities across this country from unique vantage points, in a unique mode of transportation. However, their operators and manufacturers need not, and should not, subject passengers to a lower standard of safety.

If today’s safety recommendations are acted upon, and if today’s safety alert is heeded by duck boat operators, the same protections that apply to other land transportation will also apply to duck boats. Consequently, our roads and highways will be safer places, not only for APVs and their passengers, but also for vehicles and pedestrians that share the roads with the APVs.

We stand adjourned.