Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In the wake of a string of deadly bus accidents, a Senate hearing, and chilling preliminary findings from the NTSB, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) has introduced a motorcoach safety bill, Wednesday. It's not the only one either.
Shuster's bill has two Democratic co-sponsors already. The Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011 calls for a tighter controls and enforcement of bus driver screening, including calling for federal oversight of state requirements for commercial licenses. What the bill does not do, is mandate safety reforms to the buses themselves by a certain date.
“My legislation also recognizes that the best safety improvements come from sound science and empirical study, not from bureaucratic government mandate,” Shuster said in a statement. Shuster's spokesman Jeff Urbanchuk explained to Transportation Nation, "The idea here is government putting a mandate with a date certain on an entire industry generally does not work out too well."
That's in contrast to the other bus safety bill that was previously introduced, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009. That bill introduced in the last session of Congress by John Lewis (D-Georgia) , along with a version in the Senate introduced by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx), calls for specific alterations to buses themselves, like adding seat belts, and strengthening the windows and structure of the buses to prevent passengers from being ejected during accidents.
Bus industry officials say this kind of requirement would impose a prohibitive cost burden on them and prefer voluntary safety improvements already underway.
The Brown-Hutchison bill -- like the Shuster bill -- suggests new measures for preventing unqualified drivers from getting behind the wheel of a passenger bus.
Either bill could be incorporated into the transportation reauthorization bill.