The state of California is moving ahead with legislation to mandate the installation of three-point restraints in motorcoaches used for student activity travel. The bill (AB 852) introduced in February would require school pupil activity buses (SPAB) manufactured after Jan. 1, 2004, to have shoulder and lap restraints.
Mike Waters, president of the California Bus Association, wants to push the implementation date back to allow manufacturers a more substantial transition period. "The manufacturers don't have the equipment set up at this point," said Waters. "As I understand it, the standards they are using for a restraint system are based on an existing federal standard."
Waters believes that he and others are looking to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to establish a seatbelt standard, but is doubtful this can be accomplished before the implementation period. "They don't think [NHTSA] is going to be able to come up with a standard by the time California comes up with this rule, even with the delays," he said.
Another issue at hand will be the high demand for California equipment, said Waters, who buys all second-hand equipment for his motorcoach service, Pacific Coast Bus Service. "Let's say in 2009 if I want to buy another bus, I'm going to be limited to buying one built for the California spec," he said, "unlike the last one I bought in Louisiana."
Norm Littler, the United Motorcoach Association's vice president of government affairs, fears that the statute still allows vehicles produced before the effective date of the requirements to be used.
"What I see then is older motorcoaches being used primarily for school charter work," he said.