There are currently an estimated 35,000 motorcoaches on the road in the U.S., according to the American Bus Association (ABA). As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) completes crash and rollover testing, an increasing number of carriers are looking to install seat belts on their coaches, if they haven't done so already. Greyhound recently equipped its fleet of 140 Prevost X3-45 motorcoaches with belted seats supplied by SafeGuard, a division of Westfield, Ind.-based IMMI. Thirty-eight of the newly equipped vehicles will be used for the carrier's BoltBus service.
The new Premier seats, featuring lap-shoulder belts and exclusive SmartFrame technology, offer full compartmentalization protection in frontal crashes, even for unbelted passengers. The seat has two structures: the inner structure provides lap-and-shoulder belts and absorbs crash energy for the belted passenger, while the outer seatback structure remains vertical and then yields as it cushions and absorbs the energy of anyone in the seat behind who isn't wearing a seat belt.
The Premier debuted on the coaches ordered by Greyhound in early April. The first coaches in the new fleet are assigned to the New York-to-Montreal, New York-to-Toronto and New York-to-Boston routes. Eventually, Greyhound plans to replace the entire nationwide fleet.
Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh explained that IMMI did the testing on the buses, ensuring that the seat belt and seat structures worked both in conjunction with each other and separately.
As Greyhound prepared to order new coaches, they revisited all areas of the coach, including different safety features newly available. "As coaches have updated, there are more features available, different things that work better together. As technology improves, so do aspects of safety and environmental impact," she says.
Wambaugh adds that the older seats also feature compartmentalization, but the latest seats have the additional feature of the seat belts.
While the federal government does not yet require seat belts in large buses, Greyhound is the first line haul carrier in the industry to equip its coaches with belted seats, addressing one of five federal highway safety priorities on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2008.
"The entire seat, all parts of it, is made to be the safest seat out there. And that's what we want, as we purchase new buses, the best of each area, and that includes the safest seats as well," Wambaugh says.
Premier, now available on Prevost coaches, is available to the motorcoach market through a partnership between SafeGuard and Grand Rapids, Mich.-based American Seating.
Through SafeGuard's work in the yellow school bus industry, they have a long-standing relationship with First Group, the company that owns Greyhound. Since both companies had struggled for years with the dilemma over whether to install seat belts, they decided to team up. "Nobody had stepped up and performed any testing," says James Johnson, director of sales, SafeGuard, IMMI. Through their relationship with First Group, SafeGuard met with engineers at Greyhound, who wanted to know more about their school bus seating system and the potential for the technology to be used in motorcoaches. That partnership ushered in an entirely new set of challenges that started SafeGuard's safety development protocol.