National School Transportation Association President Blake Krapf said on June 27 the school bus contractor group is reviewing and discussing with members the findings from the National Transportation Safety Board’s final investigation into the fatal Nov. 2016 school bus crashes in Baltimore and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The NTSB announced its conclusions on May 22 and asked all three national school bus industry associations to disseminate to members the lessons learned from the two crashes. Those include improved driver oversight, and monitoring of behind-the-wheel behavior and medical histories.
In a post-release report analysis, Krapf echoed previous comments made by the NSTA board. “School buses are currently the safest vehicles on the road. But the NSTA also supports initiatives that are shown to improve school bus safety, provided that such decisions are made at the state and local level, where initiatives can be matched with resources,” added Krapf, who is also CEO of Krapf Bus Companies, which is headquartered in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The day after the NTSB report was released to the public, the NSTA board commented that, “NTSB’s recommendations were numerous and varied, and were directed to a wide range of federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as some business entities and trade associations.”
NSTA’s statement also expressed continued concerns about previous incidents. “In 2011, NHTSA determined that requiring safety belts in school buses would not result in improved safety. NHTSA also stated that a federal seat belt mandate might increase fatalities by forcing more children into less safe modes of getting to and from school. Further, a Louisiana Department of Education Study found that, ‘passenger compartment seating design provides a safety alternative to seat belts’ and ‘school buses without seat belts protect occupants in a way that no other passenger vehicle is capable of protecting their passengers.’”
In comments to School Transportation News, however, Krapf stressed that NSTA supports initiatives that are known to improve school bus safety, despite no current federal requirement for seat belts in large school buses. He reiterated that NSTA agrees with NHTSA, that decisions on adding lap and shoulder seat belts on school buses should be made at the state and local level, “where initiatives can be matched with resources.”
Krapf added that NSTA committees continually evaluate new safety technologies and provide the information to its members. “The NSTA does not make specific recommendations, but supports the implementation of innovations that are shown to improve school bus safety, provided that decisions about implementing new safety technologies are made at the state and local level,” Krapf told STN.
While commenting that NSTA’s sharing of this data helps to maintain the school bus industry’s “stellar” safety record, risk factors remain. Those include lesser-discussed issues like driver fatigue and sleep apnea. “The risk factors related to driver fatigue for a driver of a school bus, which makes frequent stops, is very different from driver fatigue of a truck driver with a long trip. NSTA recommends that any standards developed regarding sleep apnea should recognize this difference.”
Editor’s Note: Read the July 2018 magazine edition for additional comments from school bus contractors on the NTSB recommendations. Learn how companies are already using available technology and initiatives to increase school bus safety.