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Speeches

Closing Statement, Oakland, Iowa School Bus Fire
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center, Washington, DC
6/18/2019

​In closing, I would like to thank the staff for your hard work. I also want to thank my colleagues for their preparation going into the board meeting, and for the good debate and discussion.

My special thanks to Pete Kotowski, the investigator-in-charge. But nothing gets done around here by one person; everything happens through team effort. On behalf of the Board, a sincere “thank you” not only to the investigative staff but to the support and program staff as well.

Today’s new and reiterated recommendations, if acted upon, will result in fire safety improvements in school buses for the first time in decades. They will also result in the regular physical performance testing of drivers. And, they will result in improved reporting of school bus drivers who are not fit for duty.

Driver oversight looks hard-hearted. It looks like a workplace that refuses to make an exception from physical performance testing, even if a driver is so physically impaired that he could not possibly pass such a test.

But that’s the point. Safety is a professional driver’s job. If a driver cannot play his or her role in an emergency, that driver has to be relieved of duty, at least until the medical condition is resolved.

School district administrators: If this tragedy had happened in your school district, wouldn’t you act to ensure that your drivers were medically fit?

We know that there is a shortage of school bus drivers, but the solution cannot be to augment the ranks of safe drivers with drivers who are unsafe due to a medical condition, even a temporary one.

Keeping an unfit driver on the road isn’t kindness. Once there is a crash, it is cruelty—to him and an untold number of passengers and other road users.

We stand adjourned.