NTSB Approves of, But Also Criticizes, Final Rule on Bus Integrity To Prevent Rollover Accident Deaths

The NTSB praises the new rule but says it does not do enough to protect passengers on smaller buses.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has expressed concerns about new rules proposed to improve the structural integrity for passenger busses and reduce the risk of death from bus rollover accidents, indicating that more work needs to be done to protect passengers on smaller buses.

A proposed final bus rollover integrity rule was issued by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 29, which would create Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 227 to protect bus occupants in rollover crashes.

In a press release issued this week, the NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy praised the rule, but warns that it fails to address safety problems with buses of all types and sizes.

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The rule calls on bus manufacturers to enhance structural integrity of buses with gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds. This rule updated recommendations on roof strength and window integrity that originated in 1999 following the Bryce Canyon City, Utah, bus rollover crash which led to the deaths of four passengers, 17 serious injuries and nine minor injuries, as well as 13 passengers who were either fully or partially ejected from the bus during the crash.

The new rule requires buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds to meet a roof strength standard that provides maximum survival space for all seating positions and accounts for typical window dimensions.

The final rule is expected to cost manufacturers an additional $5 to $13 million each year. Each new bus would require an additional $282 to $507 to equip it for the rule changes. However, only newly built buses will need to comply with the standards.

However, according to the NTSB, the rule is not enough to protect all passengers as it does not include smaller buses with gross weight ratings between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds. The NTSB also recommended provisions for window glazing standards to prevent occupant ejection during crashes. The NHTSA did not use either of the recommendations for the new rule.

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