by Hal Mattern
The National Transportation Safety Board’s newest list of recommended but unaddressed safety improvements includes 13 proposals that would directly affect the motorcoach industry.
They include safety measures dealing with driver distractions, collision-avoidance systems, fatigue-related accidents, obstructive sleep apnea and drug and alcohol impairment.
NTSB’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements includes 267 recommendations covering all forms of transportation. Some result from accident investigations dating back a decade.
Eight other recommendations that had been on the list have been closed. Six of the recommendations were closed after they were favorably acted upon, One was closed with unacceptable action and one was closed because it was superseded by another safety recommendation.
One of the six successfully closed recommendations gives NTSB access to all positive driver drug and alcohol test results and refusal determinations conducted under U.S. Department of Transportation testing requirements.
The one closed with unsuccessful action recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establish an ongoing program “to monitor, evaluate, report on and continuously improve fatigue management programs implemented by motor carriers to identify, mitigate and continuously reduce fatigue-related risks for drivers.”
“Closing safety recommendations with acceptable action taken, resulting in improved transportation safety, is the goal of issuing and advocating for a safety recommendation,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a news release. “Our safety recommendations are founded in the science of our accident investigations and are designed to prevent similar future accidents. Transportation safety is improved when recipients of our safety recommendations take acceptable action.”
Here are the remaining safety recommendations on the NTSB list that would affect the motorcoach industry:
H-06-029: Recommends that the motorcoach, public transit and school bus industries develop formal policies prohibiting cellular telephone use by commercial driver’s license holders with a passenger-carrying or school bus endorsement, while driving under the authority of that endorsement, except in emergencies.
H-15-038: Recommends that FMCSA determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and develop a plan to reduce the use of such substances.
H-15-039: Recommends that FMCSA work with motor carrier industry stakeholders to develop a plan to aid motor carriers in addressing commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly those not covered under current drug-testing regulations, by promoting best practices by carriers, expanding impairment detection training and authority, and developing performance-based methods of evaluation.
H-15-043: Recommends that the United Motorcoach Association, American Bus Association, American Trucking Association, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association inform their members about the dangers of driver use of synthetic drugs and encourage them to take steps to prevent drivers from using these substances.
H-16-008: Recommends that FMCSA disseminate information to motor carriers about using hair testing as a method of detecting the use of controlled substances, under the appropriate circumstances.
H-15-004: Recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop and apply testing protocols to assess the performance of forward collision avoidance systems in passenger vehicles at various velocities, including high speed and high velocity-differential.
H-15-008: Recommends that NHTSA require all new school buses to be equipped with collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking technologies.
H-15-009: Recommends that school bus manufacturers install a collision avoidance system with automatic emergency braking as standard equipment on all newly manufactured school buses
H-09-009: Recommends that the United Motorcoach Association and American Bus Association inform their members through websites, newsletters and conferences of the circumstances of a 2008 fatal bus crash in Mexican Hat, Utah. The prepared information should encourage charter operators to develop written contingency plans for each charter to ensure that trip planning is in place in the event of driver fatigue, incapacitation or illness, or in the event of trip delays necessitating replacement drivers to avoid hours-of-service violations and inform drivers of their trip’s contingency plans. The prepared material should also provide information about the risks of operating in rural areas without wireless telephone coverage and advise members to carry mobile cellular amplifiers or satellite-based devices to communicate emergency events.
H-12-030: Recommends that FMCSA incorporate scientifically based fatigue mitigation strategies into the hours-of-service regulations for passenger-carrying drivers who operate during the nighttime window of circadian low.
H-09-015: Recommends that FMCSA implement a program to identify commercial drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and require that those drivers provide evidence through the medical certification process of having been appropriately evaluated and, if treatment is needed, effectively treated for that disorder before being granted unrestricted medical certification.
H-09-016: Recommends that FMCSA develop and disseminate guidance for commercial drivers, employers and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of OSA, emphasizing that drivers who have OSA that is effectively treated are routinely approved for continued medical certification.
H-17-049: Recommends that FMCSA make the 2016 Medical Review Board/Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee recommendations on screening for OSA easily accessible to certified medical examiners, and instruct the examiners to use the recommendations as guidance when evaluating commercial drivers for OSA risk.