As Canadian operators grapple with increased public demand for seatbelts on motorcoaches, the question of retrofitting older buses with belts has surfaced.
While Transport Canada has mandated that all new motorcoaches be equipped with lap/shoulder belts beginning in September 2020, there has been no official call for mandatory retrofits. Even so, some operators have been asking about retrofitting, prompting industry officials to point out that adding seatbelts to existing motorcoaches not only would be cost prohibitive—as much as $60,000 to $70,000 per bus—it could make the vehicles even less safe if not done properly.
“You can’t just staple nylon straps to the existing seats and call them seatbelts,” said Doug Switzer, president and CEO of Motor Coach Canada. “Older coaches were not built to accommodate seatbelts. The seats are not properly secured to the floor. You would have to rip out the floor, replace the seats and change the structural integrity of the coach in order to add seatbelts. If not done properly, it could be more of a problem than not having seatbelts.”
That is not news to U.S. operators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report to Congress in 2016 called “Retrofit Assessment for Existing Motorcoaches” that determined retrofitting was not feasible. The report concluded that “the cost and engineering expertise needed for a retrofitting operation would be beyond the means of bus owners (for-hire operators), many of which are small businesses.
The report concluded: “After considering the low likelihood that a retrofit requirement would be technically practicable at a reasonable cost, the cost impacts on small businesses and the low benefits that would accrue from a retrofit requirement, NHTSA decided not to pursue a retrofit requirement for seatbelts.”