ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
Docket No. 2007-1
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles
COMMENTS OF THE AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION ON DRAFT REVISIONS
June 12, 2007
There are other issues that may arise with regard to the OTRB guidelines when the Access Board starts its review. ABA appreciates the Access Board’s willingness to engage interested members of the public in a dialogue about these potential changes at an early stage and we look forward to participating with the Access Board when it starts its review of the OTRB guidelines.
American Bus Association (ABA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’s (Access Board) draft revisions to the accessibility guidelines for buses, vans, and similar vehicles under subparts A and B of 36 C.F.R. Part 1192.
ABA is the trade association for the over-the-road bus industry. ABA has over 3800 members and some 800 bus operator members. The ABA bus operator member companies (Over-The-Road Buses) provide all manner of transportation services, line-haul, charter and tour, airport shuttle and commuter service. ABA believes that the propose guidelines raise several critical issues. Issues that require serious consideration before this proposal is finalized.
First, ABA believes that there should be a requirement or standard for the “manual” opening and unlocking of a motorcoach’s wheelchair lift door in an emergency.
Although there is a requirement for an emergency method of deploying the lift if the power to the lift fails (36 C.F.R. 1192.23(b) (3)), there is no requirement that there be a manual or mechanical method of opening the lift door, nor any standards for such mechanism. Since there is no requirement, OTRB manufacturers have not installed
a mechanism for manually opening the lift door when the power fails, nor is such mechanism included in any retrofit packages.
Lift doors on OTRBs are powered either by electricity or air pressure. When an accident or fire causes loss of electrical power or air pressure, there is no mechanism to manually unlock the lift door. This means that wheelchair using passengers must be evacuated through the front door or through the windows and that other passengers cannot use the wheelchair lift door as a means of escape.
ABA urges the Access Board and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) should require that all new OTRBs have a mechanism installed inside and outside the vehicle that enables a driver to open the lift door manually when the power to the door fails.
ABA has several other concerns about the Access Board changes. First, we do not agree with the proposal to remove the definition of “common wheelchairs and mobility aids” from Section 1192.3 ABA agrees with the comments filed by Greyhound Lines (Greyhound) that an integral part of “accessibility guidelines” has to be a definition of the mobility aids which accessible vehicles are intended to accommodate. Such definition is as basic to the guidelines as the definition of the vehicles themselves.
In this regard, we note with alarm that the definition of “over-the=-road bus” is eliminated from the draft guidelines. This may have been inadvertent. OTRB’s must be defined. The current definition is appropriate and should be retained.
We are also concerned that the removal of this definition will open the door to possible requirements to provide access to “non-traditional” mobility aids and products which may style themselves as mobility aids without justification. The system of mobility aid access and securement on buses has been built around the definition of common wheelchairs and mobility aids. Segways (two wheeled scooters) and similar devices have not been included in that definition and simply cannot be secured safely with this system. We understand the nature of mobility aids may change over time, but this should be reflected in carefully considered modifications of the basis definition and accessibility guidelines, which take into account all relevant factors and which are implemented in a careful and appropriate manner.
Second, we are concerned about raising the design load of the lift from its current weight to 660 lbs. OTRB lifts are designed to meet the 600 lb. Standard. ABA is not aware of any demand to raise the design load of OTRB lifts above this limit. Increasing the weigh limit will increase the axle weigh of the bus, which will create additional legal and regulatory issues. Furthermore, increasing the weight limit will increase the costs of the lift. Such increased cost or vehicle weight should be required without a showing of need. The primary reason stated for the change with regard to transit buses is to bring the lift weight in line with the weight limit on some ramps. OTRBs do not use ramps there is no justification for lifting the weight limit for OTRB lifts.
Third, ABA is concerned about changes in the accessibility guidelines that add more weight to buses, both transit and OTRB. Largely because of existing accessibility requirements, buses are already very close to the 20,000 lb. Single axle weight limit when fully loaded. Congress provided a temporary, limited bus exemption from the single axle weight limit (See Public Law 109-115 (TTHUD Appropriations Act) Section 115). However, maintaining that exemption will be difficult if new accessibility requirements add even more weight to the bus. The Access Board should not modify the guidelines in any way that is likely to increase the axle weight of buses.
Fourth, ABA notes that the Access Board does not propose to change the width requirements of 28.5 and 30 inches for platform width. Our experience is that the current platforms just barely allow the wheels of a standard wheelchair to fit. They are not wide enough to safely accommodate a passengers’ hand on the outer portion of the wheel. The Board should consider the issue of whether increasing the platform width is appropriate.
Clyde J. Hart, Jr.
Senior Vice President for Government Affairs
American Bus Association