Bus crash investigation spurs myriad safety proposals

It is hardly surprising that an accident involving multiple vehicles and resulting in 10 fatalities has been under continuing study by federal accident investigators since its occurrence last year.

The results of a lengthy and comprehensive analysis of a head-on collision between a commercial truck and a motorcoach bus in northern California last April concluded with a recent safety report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB states that the accident continues to be a puzzle of major proportions. Safety experts have been unable to pinpoint any reason why the FedEx driver of a tractor trailer crossed over a nearly 60-foot-wide interstate median and rammed a bus carrying dozens of passengers.

Both drivers died in the crash, along with eight bus passengers. Two occupants of a passenger car that was also hit by the truck were injured, along with 37 motorcoach passengers.

The sheer scope and tragedy marking the accident understandably yielded the NTSB’s closest scrutiny, and what the agency noted in its post-crash report was revealing.

For starters, neither commercial vehicle had an on-board data event recorder (the so-called “black box”), which the NTSB found lamentable. Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart stated that that NTSB has been strongly pushing for universal installation of that equipment on all commercial vehicles for more than a decade, but to no avail.

The NTSB also noted that emergency lighting on the bus was inadequate and that lack of a second emergency exit door hindered post-crash evacuations. The board recommended that federal safety regulators address such deficiencies, as well as upgrade flammability standards operative to commercial buses and better ensure that operators conduct pre-trip safety briefings for passengers.

Source: Claims Journal, “NTSB calls for black boxes, safety improvements for motorcoaches,” NTSB cited as source, July 20, 2015