November 3, 2010

Motorcoach Crash Protection

Proposed Rule
Summary

Score: 30 / 60

Additional details
Agency
Department of Transportation
Regulatory Identification Number
2127-AK56
Agency Name
Department of Transportation
Rule Publication Date
08/18/2010
Comment Closing Date
10/18/2010
Dollar Year
2008
Time Horizon (Years)
10

RULE SUMMARY

In accordance with NHTSA’s 2007 Motorcoach Safety Plan and DOT’s 2009 Departmental Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, NHTSA is issuing this NPRM to propose to amend the Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) on occupant crash protection (FMVSS No. 208) to require lap/shoulder seat belts for each passenger seating position in new motorcoaches. This NPRM also proposes to require a lap/shoulder belt for the motorcoach and large school bus driver’s seating positions, which currently are required to have either a lap or a lap/shoulder belt. Although motorcoach transportation overall is a safe form of transportation in the United States, several motorcoach crashes in 2008 have illustrated that motorcoach rollover crashes, while a relatively rare event, can cause a significant number of fatal or serious injuries in a single event. NHTSA’s safety research on motorcoach seat belts, completed in 2009, shows that the installation of lap/shoulder belts on motorcoaches is practicable and effective. We believe that the seat belt assemblies that would be installed on motorcoach passenger seats pursuant to this rulemaking could reduce the risk of fatal injuries in rollover crashes by 77 percent, primarily by preventing occupant ejection in a crash.

MONETIZED COSTS & BENEFITS (AS REPORTED BY AGENCY)

Dollar Year
2008
 
Time Horizon (Years)
10
 
Discount Rates
3%
7%
Expected Costs (Annualized)
$28.0-$29.4 Million
$27.4-$28.5 Million
Expected Benefits (Annualized)
$23.4-$129.7 Million
$17.9-$99.0 Million
Expected Costs (Total)    
Expected Benefits (Total)    
Net Benefits (Annualized)
-$4.6 -- $100.3 Million
-$9.5 -- $70.5 Million
Net Benefits (Total)    

METHODOLOGY

There are twelve criteria within our evaluation within three broad categories: Openness, Analysis and Use. For each criterion, the evaluators assign a score ranging from 0 (no useful content) to 5 (comprehensive analysis with potential best practices). Thus, each analysis has the opportunity to earn between 0 and 60 points.

Criterion Score

Openness

1. How easily were the RIA , the proposed rule, and any supplementary materials found online?
The Federal Register notice and the RIA can be found on regulations.gov via a RIN or keyword search. However, the notice is filed under "rules" rather than "proposed rules." A link to the Federal Register notice is also three clicks from the DOT home page -- select NHTSA from the drop-down menu, then "laws and regulations," then "seat belts" for a list of recent initiatives. The RIA document does not appear to be on the DOT web site.
4/5
2. How verifiable are the data used in the analysis?
Data on fatalities, crashes, and injuries appear to be from government databases, but only a reader already knowledgeable about these data could find them based on the information given. Some data sources are cited but not linked. Some data are sourced to discussions with manufacturers or bus companies.
3/5
3. How verifiable are the models and assumptions used in the analysis?
Several "simplifying assumptions" used to estimate motorcoach injuries seem pulled from thin air. Some other quantitative assumptions are "based on" studies of things other than motorcoaches, but it is not clear how the authors got from the results of other studies to the assumptions used in this RIA. Potential substantial retrofit costs for small operators are dismissed with an undocumented assumption that they do not compete with large operators.
3/5
4. Was the analysis comprehensible to an informed layperson?
Description of results from crash dummy tests is highly technical and understandable only to those already familiar with the topic. Then these results are rejected in favor of data on effectiveness of seatbelts in the rear seat of cars. Then the analysis says it uses data on effectiveness of front seat restraints. So it is really not clear what research findings the benefit estimates are based on, or whether they are reasonable. The RIA document reads like it was put together in a hurry. On the plus side, most calculations are spelled out clearly. The executive summary in the Federal Register notice does an excellent job of presenting the results of the analysis.
2/5

Analysis

5. How well does the analysis identify the desired outcomes and demonstrate that the regulation will achieve them?
4/5
Does the analysis clearly identify ultimate outcomes that affect citizens’ quality of life?
Fatalities and injuries avoided in motorcoach accidents.
5/5
Does the analysis identify how these outcomes are to be measured?
RIA estimates fatalities and injuries avoided, and it monetizes them.
5/5
Does the analysis provide a coherent and testable theory showing how the regulation will produce the desired outcomes?
Seat belts prevent ejection of passengers from seats when a motorcoach rolls over or collides. Requiring seat belts will therefore reduce fatalities and injuries if passengers use them. But whether passengers use them is a big question mark.
3/5
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
Results of crash tests and studies of automobile seatbelt use appear to show that seat belts with shoulder harnesses reduce injuries, but seat belts alone increase them. RIA notes that Australia and the EU require seat belts but claims data are insufficient to assess their effectiveness there. The analysis acknowledges that seatbelt use is uncertain and cites some empirical studies on seat belt use.
4/5
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the outcomes?
Seat belt use rate is uncertain, so the analysis estimated a range based on seat belt use rates in Australian motorcoaches (low) and seat belt use in US cars (high). The benefit-cost analysis also calculates a breakeven belt use rate.
3/5
6. How well does the analysis identify and demonstrate the existence of a market failure or other systemic problem the regulation is supposed to solve?
1/5
Does the analysis identify a market failure or other systemic problem?
RIA lists a 2-sentence justification in the Regulatory Flexibility section -- few motorcoaches have seat belts. The preamble to the rule states that although motorcoach accidents are rare, they create a large number of fatalities and injuries when they occur. The analysis does not show that motorcoach users are demanding seatbelts on motorcoaches and not being provided with them. The analysis even mentions that some motorcoach companies have started providing seatbelts in their motorcoaches.
1/5
Does the analysis outline a coherent and testable theory that explains why the problem (associated with the outcome above) is systemic rather than anecdotal?
No explanation of why passengers are not getting the amount of safety they have shown themselves willing to pay for.
0/5
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
There is no theory explaining a market failure or systemic problem, and no evidence presented to support such a theory. The closest the RIA comes to providing evidence of a problem is statistics showing that most injuries and fatalities stem from collisions or rollovers, where seat belts might help. The Fed Register notice presents informative statistics showing how DOT is isolating the most significant causes of fatalities and injuries.
1/5
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the existence or size of the problem?
Problem is assumed certain.
0/5
7. How well does the analysis assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches?
2/5
Does the analysis enumerate other alternatives to address the problem?
The agency considers three alternatives: the one chosen, a requirement for lap belts only, and a retrofit requirement. The Federal Register notice also mentions alternative strength requirements for anchoring belts, but these were not subjected to the RIA.
3/5
Is the range of alternatives considered narrow (e.g., some exemptions to a regulation) or broad (e.g., performance-based regulation vs. command and control, market mechanisms, nonbinding guidance, information disclosure, addressing any government failures that caused the original problem)?
These are all variations on the same basic regulatory theme -- requiring belts.
1/5
Does the analysis evaluate how alternative approaches would affect the amount of the outcome achieved?
Benefits of lap/shoulder belts, lap belts, and retrofit are calculated. The calculation of positive benefits for lap belts seems odd, since the crash dummy tests seem to show that lap belts increase injuries. Benefits of retrofit are not part of the formal "benefit" section but are mentioned in passing in the section discussing cost-effectiveness.
3/5
Does the analysis adequately address the baseline? That is, what the state of the world is likely to be in the absence of federal intervention not just now but in the future?
Baseline is assumed to be same incidence of injuries and fatalities experienced over the past 10 years. No discussion of how safety might change in the future in the absence of a regulation.
1/5
8. How well does the analysis assess costs and benefits?
2/5
Does the analysis identify and quantify incremental costs of all alternatives considered?
Costs lap belts, lap/shoulder belts, and retrofit are calculated.
5/5
Does the analysis identify all expenditures likely to arise as a result of the regulation?
Costs of installing belts and additional fuel costs are estimated. Estimates that the cost of fitting a new motorcoach is $12,500 and estimates added fuel costs due to extra weight.
4/5
Does the analysis identify how the regulation would likely affect the prices of goods and services?
No relevant discussion.
0/5
Does the analysis examine costs that stem from changes in human behavior as consumers and producers respond to the regulation?
No discussion of behavioral changes that might affect costs. Analysis acknowledges that not all passengers will use the belts and that this is a big uncertainty affecting benefits. It is surprising to see no other content, since the Federal Register notice says the regulation does not apply to school buses in part because the cost increases might lead more students to take less safe transportation options.
1/5
If costs are uncertain, does the analysis present a range of estimates and/or perform a sensitivity analysis?
No real discussion of cost uncertainty, except acknowledgement of uncertainties about costs of retrofit. But this regulatory alternative was not thoroughly studied.
1/5
Does the analysis identify the alternative that maximizes net benefits?
Identifies net benefits for lap belts and lap/shoulder belts, but not for retrofit. The alternative that maximizes net benefits varies depending on assumptions, so it is not clear which alternative maximizes net benefits.
2/5
Does the analysis identify the cost-effectiveness of each alternative considered?
RIA estimates cost per equivalent life saved.
5/5
Does the analysis identify all parties who would bear costs and assess the incidence of costs?
Little discussion beyond a claim that this regulation will not affect the viability of small entities.
1/5
Does the analysis identify all parties who would receive benefits and assess the incidence of benefits?
No discussion of incidence of benefits.
0/5

Use

9. Does the proposed rule or the RIA present evidence that the agency used the analysis?
The decision to require lap and shoulder belts appears motivated just as much by an NTSB recommendation issued as part of a 1999 investigation as by the RIA. DOT is not requiring seat belts in transit buses because statistics show the danger to passengers in those buses is much lower. The proposed regulation does not require retrofit due to substantial estimated costs, but the notice seeks further comment on retrofit, so the option has not been ruled out based on costs yet.
3/5
10. Did the agency maximize net benefits or explain why it chose another alternative?
Of the options analyzed, DOT chose the one with the largest net benefits under one set of assumptions. However, the range of alternatives was quite narrow. It is also not clear if the chosen alternative really maximizes net benefits, since another alternative maximizes net benefits under other assumptions and net benefits of a third alternative were not calculated.
3/5
11. Does the proposed rule establish measures and goals that can be used to track the regulation's results in the future?
The Federal Register notice mentions no provisions for goals or targets. These could easily be developed based on the RIA's projections.
1/5
12. Did the agency indicate what data it will use to assess the regulation's performance in the future and establish provisions for doing so?
After the regulation is adopted, it would be easy to use the same data mentioned in the RIA to assess in the future whether significant bus accidents lead to the same incidence of fatalities and injuries from passenger ejection.
2/5
 
Total 30 / 60