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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-05-001
Synopsis: At 10:50 a.m. on October 13, 2003, a 1992 Neoplan USA Corporation 49-passenger motorcoach, owned and operated by the First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas, was traveling eastbound on Interstate 20 near Tallulah, Louisiana. The motorcoach, carrying 14 passengers, was en route from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as part of a multicity sightseeing tour that had originated in Eldorado. As the motorcoach approached milepost 168, it drifted rightward from the travel lanes and onto the shoulder, where it struck the rear of a 1988 Peterbilt tractor semitrailer operated by Alpha Trucking, Inc., which was stopped on the shoulder at milepost 167.9. As both vehicles moved forward, the motorcoach rotated clockwise slightly and the semitrailer rotated counter-clockwise slightly; the vehicles remained together. They traveled approximately 62 feet and came to rest, still oriented to the east, adjacent to the right side of the interstate on the outside shoulder. Eight motorcoach passengers sustained fatal injuries, the motorcoach driver and six passengers received serious injuries, and the Peterbilt driver was not injured.
Recommendation: TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Develop performance standards for passenger seat anchorages in motorcoaches.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Highway
Location: Tallulah, LA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: hwy04mh002
Accident Reports: Motorcoach Run-Off-The-Road Accident
Report #: HAR-05-01
Accident Date: 10/13/2003
Issue Date: 4/27/2005
Date Closed: 7/22/2014
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: NHTSA (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 7/22/2014
Response: We note that your final rule requires that the lap/shoulder belt system be integrated into the structure of passenger seats and that the new configuration must meet the anchorage strength requirements of the existing FMVSS No. 210. Because this requirement constitutes an acceptable alternate method of satisfying the recommended action, Safety Recommendation H-05-1 is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE ACTION.

From: NTSB
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
Date: 2/7/2013
Response: We are pleased that NHTSA has incorporated the provisions of MAP-21 related to motorcoaches into its occupant protection rulemaking, and we look forward to the publication of the final rule later this year. We understand that NHTSA is also moving forward with a proposed rulemaking on motorcoach roof strength, also scheduled for publication in 2013. We note that this combined rulemaking should substantially address the four recommendations stated above; however, we are concerned that there has been no information published to date specifying that the proposed rules will apply to vehicles with GVWRs from 10,000 to 26,000 pounds. The Dolan Springs accident investigation, which prompted us to issue Safety Recommendation H-10-3, involved a bus with a GVWR of only 19,500 pounds; we found the use of these smaller buses increasing because of their ability to generate high revenues, their low retail costs compared to the costs of motorcoaches, and their passenger capacity. Although these buses have an interior configuration similar to that of a motorcoach, are often operated like motorcoaches are, and have only a slight reduction in passenger capacity from that of motorcoaches, they would be excluded from the current proposed regulations for passenger (and driver) lap/shoulder belts because of the over-26,000-pound GVWR requirement for these safety features. As the actions NHTSA has taken and planned represent progress toward the implementation of Safety Recommendations H 99 47 and -48 and H-05-1, these recommendations are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. However, because there is no indication to date that NHTSA intends to include buses with GVWRs below 26,001 pounds in its upcoming rulemakings, Safety Recommendation H-10-3 remains classified “Open—Unacceptable Response.

Date: 10/16/2012
Response: -From David L. Strickland, Administrator: NHTSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on August 18, 2010, titled, "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards: Motorcoach Definition; Occupant Crash Protection" (docket number NHTSA-2010-0112). The NPRM proposed to amend the Federal motor vehicle safety standard for occupant crash protection to require, among other things, a lap/shoulder belt at all passenger seating positions on new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 11 ,793 kilograms (26,000 pounds) (except for a few excluded bus types, such as transit buses). It also proposed to apply requirements for seat belt anchorage loads, to ensure that the seats and seat belts will be strong enough to withstand the loads imposed in serious crashes. It also proposed to require lap/shoulder belts for the driver position of school buses greater than 4,536 kilograms ( 10,000 pounds) GVWR. NHTSA received over 130 comments on the NPRM from seat manufacturers, bus manufacturers and affiliates, large and small transportation providers, consumer and other organizations, and private individuals. The agency evaluated the comments and completed a draft of the final rule in May 2012. On Jul y 6, 2012, President Obama signed the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act" (MAP-21), which incorporated in Subtitle G the "Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2012," P.L. 11 2-141. The MAP-21 states that the Secretary shall prescribe regulations requiring seat belts on motorcoaches at each designed seating position within one year. Given this new legislation, which included a specific motorcoach definition and a few additional requirements, the agency needed to review the draft final rule and make conforming changes to comply with the new legislation. This work has been completed and the final rule is currently under departmental review. Based on the agency's act ion in this area, NHTSA believes that recommendations H-99-47 and H-99-48 will be substantially fulfilled upon final rule publication. Thus, we request that the status of these recommendations be changed to Open-Acceptable Responses. We note that the status of the rulemaking reported above also applies to the following recommendations. We request that they be classified as Open-Acceptable Responses: H-05-001 and H-10-003.

From: NTSB
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: NTSB
Date: 9/27/2005
Response: The Safety Board is aware that NHTSA has conducted a joint research program with Transport Canada to examine worldwide motorcoach regulations and notes that NHTSA is currently conducting research to establish performance standards based on the findings of the program. The Board further notes that NHTSA is conducting research on test procedure requirements for safety belt anchorages used on school buses and encourages NHTSA to explore the applicability of these requirements to motorcoaches. In response to a request by NHTSA staff for further information on the seat anchorage failures referenced in the Tallulah, Louisiana, accident report, Board staff has provided pictures from the public docket. The Board understands that NHTSA is currently evaluating this information. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation H-05-01 is classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE pending the completion of NHTSA's research and the development of the recommended performance standards. The Board encourages NHTSA to continue its motorcoach and school bus research and looks forward to receiving updates on NHTSA's efforts to increase motorcoach safety.

Date: 6/23/2005
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 7/5/2005 2:39:23 PM MC# 2050297 - From Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., Administrator: I want to thank the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for their letter of April 27 regarding the October 13, 2003, motorcoach run-off-the road crash near Tallulah, Louisiana, which brought about Safety Recommendation H-05-01. Safety Recommendation H-05-01 asks the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop performance standards for passenger seat anchorages in motorcoaches. About 10 motorcoach occupants are killed per year in the United States compared to approximately 31,000 other passenger vehicle occupants, and each life lost is a tragedy that we must do our best to prevent. In addressing the motorcoach issue, we also must consider using our limited resources most efficiently. While we prefer not to reduce funding of other programs that have the potential to make larger reductions in the 43,000 deaths and millions of injuries that occur each year, the motorcoach seat anchorage issues raised by the NTSB also deserve attention. In our past correspondence about motorcoach Safety Recommendations, NHTSA stated that there were no industry standards upon which to base Federal motor vehicle safety standards, and that research had to be performed to ensure that any proposed regulation would be based on valid scientific data. NHTSA's joint research program with Transport Canada has examined worldwide motorcoach regulations, including those in Europe and Australia. We are now conducting the primary research necessary to establish performance requirements and objective compliance test procedures for improved glazing retention and other structural integrity requirements for motorcoaches. We are also conducting research on safety belt anchorage test procedure requirements for school buses that may have some applicability to motorcoaches. NHTSA will evaluate the information provided by NTSB on motorcoach seat anchorage failures in crashes to determine if any of our existing testing will support developing motorcoach seat anchorage performance standards. NHTSA recommends that Safety Recommendation H-05-01 be classified as "open acceptable response." I hope that this information is helpful. If you have any questions, please have your staff contact me or Mr. Ronald L. Medford, Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety, at (202) 366-1810.