In terms of bus safety, March 2011 was not a great month.

In the early morning hours of March 12, 2011, 15 people were killed when their World Wide Travels tour bus lost control on a New York highway. Two days later, a Super Luxury Tours driver and passenger were killed when their bus crashed in New Jersey.

Within weeks of these tragic accidents, the United States Senate convened hearings to address the Department of Transportation’s failure to implement National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations and its lack of progress on bus safety reform. In response to congressional criticism, the NTSB convened a bus and truck safety forum on May 10 and 11 in the nation’s capital.

The two-day forum, chaired by NTSB member Robert L. Sumwalt, addressed several agenda items. The first-day sessions covered issues such as carrier oversight, carrier fitness, training and licensure. The following day, safety stakeholders focused on driver safety, driver programs, technologies and crash mitigation strategies. The forum also provided the NTSB an opportunity to review its progress on bus safety since the last public hearings in 1999-2000.

The NTSB has been in existence for more than 80 years. The agency does more than simply investigate accidents. Its mission is to determine the probable cause of transportation accidents and to promote transportation safety, as well as assist victims of transportation accidents and their families. Based on data collected from its investigations and studies, the independent agency makes recommendations geared at improving transportation safety on America’s roads and in our skies.

Since the fatal World Wide Tours and Super Luxury Tour bus accidents, the NTSB has implemented several safety programs geared at preventing such accidents. Other than recommendations for safety technologies such as seat belts, one of the agency’s recent measures was to implement safety system reviews of the discount tour bus industry. These reviews will cover operational practices as well as regulatory practices.

Bus safety reform will need to address more than operator actions or omissions. Pressing the federal government to act on its mandate to improve safety on our national roadways and to regulate all vehicles is one step that can be taken to prevent motor coach-related fatalities such as those that occurred with World Wide Tours and Super Luxury Tours.