The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a federal agency whose mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle accidents, earlier this month issued an advisory on the dangers of motorcoaches exceeding the safety capacity of their tires. Simply put, the FMCSA warns against overloaded buses, and issued the advisory in response to recent fatal bus accidents attributed to overloading.
Motorcoach operators must consider the weight of passengers and their baggage when determining the safe operating capacity of their vehicles. These variables place stress on the tires of a bus, which are rated for load capacity and safe speed limits. The appropriate weight limits are marked on bus tires.
In its advisory to motorcoach operators, the FMCSA states that the companies should check loads and act when the load limits are maxed out or close to it. These actions include reducing the number of passengers and/or the amount of luggage onboard, or increasing the motorcoach’s tire pressure. According to the safety organization, the tires on an improperly loaded bus have a greater chance of overheating or failing, which puts the passengers and other vehicles on the road in peril.
The two buses involved in fatal accidents that sparked this advisory were double-deckers, but this warning applies to all types of motorcoaches.
These same dangers should concern owners of recreational vehicles. The Recreational Vehicle Safety Education Foundation has conducted a program since 1993 to weigh RVs and motor homes. Reportedly, it has weighed 27,000 such vehicles across the country and about a third of them had overloaded tires. Just as with commercial motorcoaches, if the tires on a motor home are stressed to their safety limits, they could fail; the operator could lose control, placing the passengers in the RV and passengers in other vehicles in imminent danger.
Motorcoaches, RVs, and commercial trucks can cause catastrophic damage to life and property due to their significant size and weight. Owners and operators of such vehicles have the responsibility to ensure their proper maintenance and their safe operation while on the road.