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Driver safety protection

Some will have seen the pictures of the tragic collision on the A47 on Tuesday between a double decker and an articulated lorry in which a passenger and the bus driver very sadly died. I recall a collision between a Leopard and a VR probably 30+ years ago in which the SD ended up inside the DD resulting in the death of the DD driver.

It seems virtually nothing has been done during the intervening years to provide any form of impact protection for bus drivers. The only strength in the body is the upper deck floor, the rest of the front end having the structural integrity of tissue paper. Going back as far as the early 1970s there were impact resistance regulations for lorry cabs in Sweden, much of this was made by the manufacturers and the Swedish makes saw considerable sales success in the UK; although their success was really related to providing a generally better product. By the late 1970s the UK manufacturers had also cottoned on to providing a better working environment, so the wooden framed garden sheds were withdrawn and much better and solid designs followed suit and cabs with a safety cage to protect the driver in moderate impacts appeared.

The bus industry in the meantime has done what? While the very design of vehicle with the engine other than at the front poses challenges, it is not impossible with a will to do so to construct a snout and a cage framework around the driver capable of withstanding moderate impacts. While it would seem that the A47 crash was probably severe enough for such a structure to have had little effect upon survivability with the major impact being at windscreen and dash level, it is apparent that the staircase is regarded as the crumple zone for bus design.

One only has to compare modern 1 ton vans with their long snouts to their earlier predecessors like the VW Transporter and Ford Thames to see what can be done. It used to be said that safety features would not sell a vehicle, the reverse has been proved since. One is left to conclude that even in the van market the purchaser and the driver are frequently one and the same – enough to influence design. The bus market is entirely different with zero input from the person expected to drive the resulting product. Low floor is clearly ideal for passengers but a low seating position with zero protection for the driver is not. The time for a rethink is long overdue.

Driver safety protection

...and passenger safety protection.

Someone I know very well indeed was severely injured in this collision. He was sitting on the upper deck at the rear of the bus. He was rendered unconscious and sustained a very nasty head injury as well as extensive bruising to his shoulder, trunk and legs.

I was with him during his time in the emergency department and have nothing but praise for skill of the ambulance crews, hospital staff and police involved in dealing with this tragic incident.

It raises the issue of whether seat belts should be fitted for passengers on high-speed inter-town bus routes like the XL Peterborough to Norwich service. A seat belt would have prevented the injuries to this passenger.

My bus number (if any): RMs 238, 471 and 2213

Re: Driver safety protection

A couple of pictures that illustrate exactly what Roy said in terms of modern bus design affording little protection to either driver or passenger in a substantial collision.

The RM hit a house.

So did this DMS

Quite remarkable how weight saving was part of the design brief of the RM that still had significant metal work to absorb some impact but later vehicles some four tons heavier crumple like tissue paper to quote Roy. Given that the front seats are the most used on the upper deck, the ease at which the DMS has folded is somewhat worrying.

I once got into a conversation with a lady driver on Yellow Buses here in Bournemouth as a result of her asking what would happen if she drove her Alexander bodied Leyland Fleetline into a tree at moderate speed. I can`t imagine why she would even be thinking of such a thing but her firm belief was that the tree would `fall over` and the bus would suffer only minor damage. She absolutely wouldn`t have it that the cab area would be pushed back to the staircase and her chances of surviving were small. Back at the depot we put the Fleetline over a pit and went to have a look underneath. It changed her view immediately and, to be honest, it changed mine too as the difference between it and an RM with a front engine and axle fairly near the front was scary. There was almost nothing substantial to reduce an impact with the cab area being situated on a board enclosed by a frame. In the Yellow Buses Training School was a picture of a k reg Atlantean that had rammed a building abutment at speed. The cab was where the staircase would be. The driver died in the collision. Instances like these and Tuesday`s events at Guyhirn serve to remind us how superb so many aspects of Routemaster design were. Rarely did I see one with severe front end damage. But to balance the argument, I`ve seen many rear end shunts on Routemasters that caused significant destruction yet few destructive shunts on the rear of a modern bus where the engine absorbed the impact. An obvious conclusion can be drwan........

Re: Driver safety protection

I can clearly recall rail replacement driving, a few years ago for a very well respected company, which entailed a section of high speed running. There were instructions to remind passengers that seat belts were fitted to the bus and that they should be used.

Re: Driver safety protection

... no seat belts on the Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 involved in this collision which was first registered in September 2013.

My bus number (if any): RMs 238, 471 and 2213

Re: Driver safety protection

I thought buses would have front crumble zone and impact protection as well. Cos cars have these i thought they built buses to withstand impact it looks like sadly not. Also my sympathys to the drivers family every bus worker should be safe at work. Also to the passenger i hope they make a speedy recovery. Buses should have seat belts

Re: Driver safety protection

I thought buses would have front crumble zone and impact protection as well. Cos cars have these i thought they built buses to withstand impact it looks like sadly not. Also my sympathys to the drivers family every bus worker should be safe at work. Also to the passenger i hope they make a speedy recovery. Buses should have seat belts also my sympathys to the passenger who sadly passed away

Re: Driver safety protection

This whole issue, plus the safety of front upper saloon passengers in the event of a crash dates back to the Atlanteans arriving on the scene They and the LT Merlins, etc did at least have a fairly substantial metal framing in front of the driver in lieu of an engine plus they had chassis members that would take the first impact.

As for upstairs passenger safety, on the LT design XA/XF which was a basic PRV product with LT finishings, there was just a single 1/4" thick glass fibre dome with a glazing rubber holding the front glasses in place, There was a grab rail, across the front, (But not the side windows like other versions) which was secured also to the 1'4" thick GRP dome by 6 bolts to prevent a passenger being propelled through the front U/S windows in the event of a crash, but they would also easily be thrown forward under it.

I have never been a fan of a lot of glass at the front of buses( or the rear) and with a lot of plastic instead of metal used these days, But then again all RTs have is a sheet of metal and some wooden framing to protect the driver. I suppose the thinking is 30mph being normal in town top speed, (excluding of course cross country and express routes) the design and construction regs. are adequate, but they said that about the Building regs. in relation to fire safety...

In relation to Neil's photo comparisons, the DMS's have more substantial bodywork framing around the cab particularly at the front than RMs ( although they lack an A frame member!) and the construction method of stress panels riveted to metal pillars is similar for the bodysides, the N/S entrance was always a weak point and kept Aldenham busy for many a year...

My bus number (if any): RTL 960, RMC 1458, RM 1585 and several RTs

Re: Driver safety protection

I'm not of the opinion that seat belts are the answer to everything. From an operator's point of view a seat belt is another PG9 reason for an immediate prohibition. They would also have no effect on standing passengers. It would seem that although most if not all modern buses have the structural design capability to fit seat belts, they are not fitted to buses as there's no requirement to do so. The way the regulations read is that if belts are fitted, then standing passengers cannot be carried.

Fortunately few bus passengers are killed in collisions during the course of the year, although the numbers of those injured has probably remained at much the same level over the years. People think that as they are on a bus they are much safer than in a car which is somewhat true.

My bus number (if any): RML2532