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NHTSA aims to enhance rollover safety on motorcoaches, large buses

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Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final rule intended to protect drivers and passengers on motorcoaches and large buses during rollovers by enhancing the structural integrity of the vehicles.

The rule, published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register and set to go into effect Dec. 30, 2024, is designed to “improve the resistance of motorcoach roofs and sidewall panels” from intruding into passenger compartments during rollovers. It applies to vehicles with a gross weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds but excludes school buses, which have their own safety standards.

In addition, during rollover testing, covered vehicles must have a “survival space” and emergency exits must not open. The latter reduces the chance that the exits become “ejection portals” during a crash.

 

In a press release, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy says her agency has been calling for these protections for more than two decades, but additional work is needed “to provide the same level of safety for lighter-weight buses,” namely those between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds.

NTSB updated its recommendations for roof strength and window integrity after a September 2019 rollover crash in Bryce Canyon City, UT, that killed four passengers and seriously injured 17 others. Nearly half of the 30 passengers were fully or partially ejected from the bus during the crash.

“NHTSA’s action is a positive step toward ensuring occupant safety on motorcoaches and other large buses,” Homendy said in the release. “Although more work is needed to protect occupants of all buses, we are encouraged by NHTSA’s actions on this rulemaking and look forward to future rulemaking addressing lighter-weight buses.”

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