Rash of roof hatch violations is taking buses out of service

Several motorcoaches have recently been ordered out of service after inspections reveal issues with roof hatch violations.

As a result of the multiple out-of-service reports for emergency exits, which have sidelined several vehicles until the violation is fixed, motorcoach operators are being encouraged to review the rules.

The cause of the violations appears to be missing labels on the emergency exit window, according to Ken Presley, United Motorcoach Association Vice President, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO.

Markings and roof exits

“It’s terrible to be put out of service because of a missing sticker,” Presley shared during a March 17 UMA Town Hall. He added that other issues related to emergency exit violations include the roof exit not working properly or, more often than not, neither the driver nor the inspector being able to figure out how to work it.

Ken Presley

“Make sure your markings meet the visibility requirements. Basically, the passenger should be able to stand in the aisle and read those emergency exits,” said Presley, recommending that emergency exits be added to pre-trip inspections to make sure drivers are checking to make sure the exits are working properly.

One reason the violation is taken seriously is that an 11-year-old Oregon girl died in 2012 after she fell out of an exit window of the bus she was riding on after the window had been left been left unlatched from a previous trip. 

“It’s imperative that these windows are checked to make sure they’re working properly,” said Presley. “You know how these kids can scrape these stickers off. If there’s a sticker missing, make sure there’s a supply on the coach and a driver can stick one right back on.”

He added: “When you think about it, the industry has learned that when mayhem ensues during an emergency, clearly marked exits that work as designed saves lives.”

Recommended checklist

FMCSA’s Danielle Smith recommends the following checklist:

  • Ensure each emergency exit is properly marked.
  • Ensure markings meet visibility requirements.
  • Ensure markings convey the proper message.
  • Add emergency exit checks to pre-trip inspection.
  • Ensure your drivers know how to operate each type of emergency exit. 
  • Train drivers on how to inspect exit conditions (open and closed) and markings.
  • Require a walk-through inspection of exits by the driver after dropping off groups.
  • Ensure each coach has a supply of markings onboard to replace any missing or damaged markings that may occur during trips.

Updated criteria

The warning comes as the updated Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria was released on April 1. It outlines the pass-fail criteria for inspections, which are used to identify critical violations and detail the criteria that can prohibit a motor carrier or driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle for a specified period of time or until the condition is corrected.

“I don’t know how anybody could not have this book, because that rascal stays right here with me,” Presley said. “This gives you photos and descriptions of what will put your vehicles out of service. Certainly, your mechanic should be able to refer to one. They do now have those in a PDF format. And they have it in a mobile app. It’s $49 and it’s an excellent investment. Even if you just dodge one out-of-service order or one fine, you’re going to be better off.”


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