By Calvin Studivant
Alternate vice president, Bus Department

Newly manufactured motorcoaches would be required to have lap-shoulder seat belts – and older motorcoaches might be required to add them – under proposals from the U.S. DOT that are open for public comment.

The federal proposals do not include city or school buses. Only a handful of states require seat belts on school buses.

The DOT said that, between 1999 and 2008, there were 54 fatal motorcoach crashes resulting in 186 fatalities, most of them passengers ejected from buses. The majority of motorcoach trips – 65 percent – are made by children and senior citizens.

Wearing lap-shoulder belts on motorcoaches could reduce the risk for passengers of being killed in a rollover crash by 77 percent, says the DOT.

Separately, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which the UTU is a member, has added bus issues to its Washington lobbying responsibilities. Alternate Vice President Bonnie Morr and I are working with the TTD and other AFL-CIO transportation unions to advance a successful agenda before Congress and regulatory agencies.

At our initial meeting we discussed:

  • The growing privatization of school bus transportation.
  • The increasing number of school bus drivers considered part-time or seasonal and ineligible for health care insurance, sick leave, paid vacations and retirement plans.
  • A need for improved driver training to handle challenges of students with physical and mental disabilities.
  • A need for on-board monitors, uniform disciplinary procedures and driver training to control to control unruly students.
  • A need for training in the dangers of distracted driving that affect situational awareness, and providing medical-benefit assistance to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.
  • A need for more uniform background checks and equitable standards for disqualifying drivers.
  • The drafting of a modal labor agreement for school bus districts.

If you have suggestions for other agenda topics, please contact me.