WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The U.S. Department of Transportation on Nov. 16 released its "Motorcoach Safety Action Plan," a 56-page report that calls for tougher safety regulations for the motorcoach industry. 

The report, which Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood ordered back in April, identifies seven priority action items to reduce motorcoach crashes, fatalities and injuries. They are: 

  • Initiate rulemaking to require electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers' duty hours and manage fatigue.
  • Initiate rulemaking to propose prohibiting texting and limiting the use of cellular telephones and other devices by motorcoach drivers.
  • Initiate rulemaking to require the installation of seat belts on motorcoaches to improve occupant protection.
  • Evaluate and develop roof crush performance requirements to enhance structural integrity.
  • Develop performance requirements and assess the safety benefits for stability control systems on motorcoaches to reduce rollover events.
  • Enhance oversight of carriers attempting to evade sanctions and of other unsafe motorcoach companies.
  • Establish minimum knowledge requirements for people applying for authority to transport passengers.  

The action plan also includes a number of steps aimed at addressing the root causes of crashes. Among those steps: developing a strategy to address drivers' sleep disorders, developing a national drug and alcohol testing database, implementing a driver safety history pre-employment screening program, enhancing driver medical oversight programs, strengthening state bus inspection programs, designing and deploying a consumer complaint database, expanding research on crash-avoidance warning systems, and enhancing signage to guide vehicles safety through highway entrances and exits. 

After the plan's release, the American Bus Association (ABA) released a statement.   

"ABA supports initiatives that help remove unsafe companies and drivers from the roads; that establish educational benchmarks for drivers; and that make certain companies entering the industry are knowledgeable and abide by all regulatory requirements," said Peter J. Pantuso, ABA president and CEO. "Vigorous enforcement of existing laws doesn't require new regulations, and can start yielding quantifiable safety results immediately." 

Pantuso added that he looks forward to working with the various Department of Transportation agencies on efforts to use technology and engineering advances to improve motorcoach safety.