United Motorcoach Association (UMA) President/CEO Victor Parra and American Bus Association President/CEO Peter Pantuso both testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade at a hearing designed to learn the views of the Administration and other stakeholders considering the vehicle safety provisions included in the House and Senate highway bills.
"UMA believes the best way to ensure improved safety is to enforce existing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for our vehicles and drivers and support initiatives that improve safety that are backed by science and testing...UMA has steadfastly welcomed changes in motorcoach occupant protection; however, those changes must be founded by sound science and testing by appropriate federal agencies," said Parra. "Any mode of transportation that provides 720 million passengers trips annually, connecting people every day to essential jobs, careers, education healthcare and tourism, demands the best science and regulations our federal agencies can produce.
The hearing, entitled "Motor Vehicle Safety Provisions in House and Senate Highway Bills," was chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Other witnesses included Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, American Bus Association (ABA), and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
"UMA believes the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, (HR 7) provides for the most rational and reasonable approach to enhanced bus and motorcoach safety," continued Parra. "Most of its bus and motorcoach safety provisions were largely based on a bill authored by Congressman Bill Shuster, HR 1390, the Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety Act of 2011, which we strongly support.
"HR 7 incorporates the longstanding recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board and is also consistent with the Secretary of Transportation's Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. Indeed, NHTSA is already well under way with crash, as well as other, tests. Some of these tests, initiated under the previous Administration, have resulted in proposed rulemaking that would revise the long-standing position that required passive occupant protection in the form of compartmentalization, in favor of requiring three-point seat belts for every passenger. UMA supports the proposed rulemaking and NHTSA has indicated we will likely see final rulemaking regarding three-point seat belts later this year, which they estimate could save as many as eight lives annually...A recent survey coordinated by UMA of motorcoach manufacturers indicates the number of recently manufactured motorcoaches with seatbelts is approaching 100%; and other safety related devices are rapidly growing in numbers as well.
"In contrast, UMA strongly opposes the bus and motorcoach safety provisions included in S. 1813, as we feel it is an example of extreme government overreach and will not lead to increased motorcoach safety. Many of its mandates are overlapping, unnecessary and are currently undergoing research and testing by responsible federal agencies. Many of the mandates are simply unworkable in the timeframes in which the amendment would require each mandate to be accomplished."
Meanwhile, ABA's Pantuso told members of the subcommittee the association supports efforts in the House to improve motorcoach safety and specifically H.R. 7, which is incorporated into the House Transportation Bill.
The ABA supports H.R.7, because it believes that legislation's foundation is motorcoach safety and the industry's desire to get safety right the first time, including:
- The time limits for implementation of new mandates for bus safety provisions in H.R. 7 are more realistic than the comparable time limits in the Senate bill.
- H.R. 7 will encourage any NHTSA mandates to be implemented more quickly into the industry, providing tax credits (as well as grants and loans for small bus operators) to purchase the equipment necessary to comply with any NHTSA mandates.
- The ABA is concerned that the Senate bill does not have any provision for bus operator liability protection. The need for such protection is easily defended. In those cases in which the bus operator is complying with the federal mandates he or she should not be subjected to frivolous law suits for not having safety equipment for which there is no legal requirement. Thus an operator should not be sued for not having advanced window glazing when the government has no requirement or standard for such equipment. It is the same protection afforded the automobile manufacturers when air bags first came into the consumer market. The bus industry seeks nothing more than the treatment accorded other transportation modes.
"It is always an honor to be called before Congress to represent the nearly four thousand members of the American Bus Association on the critical issues of motorcoach safety. We have worked hard with members of the House and Senate to bring together the best technical minds to solve these important questions. I know the Members of the Committee listened receptively to what the ABA Membership has to say," said Pantuso.
To view a full list of testimonies by all witnesses, click here.