Greyhound Inc., the largest U.S. intercity bus carrier, will support U.S. Senate legislation to overhaul motor-coach safety, including its mandates for seat belts and stronger roofs to reduce rollover fatalities.
Greyhound already has 300 buses, including those in its Bolt Bus line, equipped with safety belts and stronger seats, David Leach, chief executive officer of the Dallas-based unit of Aberdeen, Scotland-based FirstGroup Plc (FGP), said at a news conference in Washington today.
“We believe such improvements should be adopted industrywide,” Leach said. “Regulators need to keep unsafe motor-coach operators off the road.”
Fatal crashes in New York, New Jersey and Virginia this year have renewed focus on bus companies, especially low-cost curbside operators popular in cities like New York and Washington. One question for Congress will be how much equipment to mandate, and how much to leave to the Transportation Department for further study.
Representative John Mica, the Florida Republican who leads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he has “pretty good agreement” with Democrats on his panel over which bus-safety measures to include in a multiyear transportation policy bill.
The House is looking at incentives for states to step up safety inspections, Mica said in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in Washington today. He said he would be open-minded about equipment mandates, while House lawmakers have emphasized stepped-up enforcement.
“Most of the crashes we’ve had have had defective equipment or a defective driver,” Mica said. “There will be strong bus-safety provisions in our bill.”
Bus crashes have caused at least 22 deaths so far this year, sparking renewed interest in legislation that would give the Transportation Department greater powers to shut unsafe operators. The Senate bill would add mandates for windows that don’t shatter, keeping passengers inside the bus during rollovers and electronic stability control.
Greyhound’s Leach said in an interview coaches recently delivered for both its main lines and its Bolt Bus service have seats designed to withstand crashes, fire suppression systems and tire-pressure monitoring sensors. The stronger roofs and windows mandated by the Senate bill are being studied, he said.
Cost wasn’t as important an issue as studying the science behind the safety measures and the industry testing of the technology, Leach said.
“We should support the strongest safety legislation that we can, not the weakest legislation we can,” Leach said. “If we can do it, let’s do it.”
Greyhound’s support will help deliver a bill that hasn’t made it out of the Senate despite years of pushing, said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington-based group backed by consumer organizations and insurance companies.
“This is going to be a game changer for the fate of this bill,” Gillan said at the Washington news conference.
Greyhound’s Leach joined a group of senators including Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican. The lawmakers began working on a safety bill that includes equipment mandates after fatal crashes in their states in 2007 and 2008.
“We’re sending a message to America’s bus companies: we’re determined to make buses safer,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat. “Millions of Americans ride on buses that don’t have basic safety features.”
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