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Last week we discussed the NTSB’s recommendations on school bus fire suppression. This week we take a look at industry responses.
NTSB recommended on Tuesday, June 18, that U.S. school bus manufacturers ensure that no hazardous quantity of gas or flame can pass through any opening in what it referred to as a “firewall” that separates the engine compartment and the passenger compartment in newly manufactured school buses. Keeping flames from reaching the passenger compartment, or at least delaying their spread, would buy valuable time for students and drivers to safely evacuate.
NTSB also reiterated a previous recommendation made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—that it revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 302 to adopt more rigorous performance standards for interior flammability and smoke emission characteristics that are already in use by the aviation and passenger rail industries. It was of the opinion that school buses that transport students with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, should definitely be equipped with fire suppression systems.
The National School Transportation Association on Wednesday expressed concern about any resulting regulation from NTSB’s recommendations that would retrofit existing school buses, as well as equip new vehicles with fire suppression systems.
“NSTA cautions that initiatives that include retrofitting existing vehicles may not be consistent with original vehicle design, integrity and warranty standards,” it said in a statement. “NSTA also recommends that initiatives should be fully funded or should be made at the state and local level where school budgets are resolved. This will help assure that well-meaning initiatives do not have the unintended effect of reducing the availability of yellow buses, thereby forcing more children into less safe modes of transportation for their trips to and from school.”