Sen. Brown and I are strong advocates for this critical issue because both of our states have experienced several tragic and preventable bus crashes. In 2006, two students from Beaumont West Brook High School in Texas were killed and 21 people injured after their charter bus overturned. The bus did not have seat belts, and the oversize windows that covered much of the bus were not impact-resistant.
Our legislation would directly address these shortcomings by requiring seat belts, stronger windows and crush-resistant roofs so that buses can better withstand rollovers and passengers will not be thrown from their seats.
Congressional action is needed because the Department of Transportation has not acted on many basic passenger safety protections even after the National Transportation Safety Board suggested a lengthy list of bus safety improvements, including several cited in our legislation — safety belts, crush-resistant roofs and stronger windows.
Another critical issue that directly affects bus safety and must be addressed is that of “reincarnated” carriers. Such carriers are bus companies, often providing charter buses for school and group trips, that are taken out of service because of extensive safety violations and then quickly resume operation under new names.
This practice allows these risky carriers to continue operating without having to address and correct safety violations. This was one of the factors that led to a devastating bus accident in Sherman, Texas, that claimed 17 lives in 2008.
Our bus safety legislation would close this loophole by requiring motor coach vehicle safety inspections of all new bus operators to ensure they are able to operate safely before they carry a single passenger, and it would help stop the growing problem of reincarnated carriers.
Now is the time to pass the Brown-Hutchison comprehensive bus safety legislation. Our proposal presents a sensible way to help prevent many senseless tragedies. As Americans climb aboard buses and hit the road this summer, let us be sure that we are doing everything possible to make their trips safe.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.