By Mike Martin, NAPT Executive Director
What a difference six weeks can make.
That was when — based on what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed in its regulatory notice about school bus occupant protection — NAPT was concerned that NHTSA would issue a de facto mandate that installing lap-shoulder belts in large school buses is a “best practice” and the “right thing to do.”
From the day NHTSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking was issued, NAPT took a strong and principled stance against it, arguing that sound science and data analysis should rule the day, rather than emotion and political expediency.
Well, NHTSA obviously listened to our appeal for objectivity, because the agency issued a final rule on Oct. 15 that, in our view, is a far cry from what it proposed nearly a year ago.
But six weeks ago, anticipating a very different and unacceptable final rule from NHTSA, and because magazines have long lead times, I wrote a very strong op-ed for the October issue of SCHOOL BUS FLEET: “Seat Belts on Buses? Politics and Money Will Rule in the End.”
The perspective was appropriate at the time, because every indication was that politics were heavily in play, so we wanted to keep the pressure on them to make fact-based and science-based decisions on very contentious matters.
Just wanted those who read my op-ed piece to know that it was written well in advance of the NHTSA final rule and is no longer relevant. Instead, NHTSA’s current leaders and especially Charles Hott deserve a salute for listening carefully and taking seriously our perspective and comments.
I applaud the agency for addressing the concerns expressed by NAPT members and other school bus professionals, and I look forward to working with them to help states and local school bus service providers understand and appreciate the new occupant protection guidelines.