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FIRST TAKE Looking Back to Move Forward WRITTEN BY RYAN GRAY I

f you’ve purchased a new car in the past few years, it may have come equipped with an optional rear- view backup camera. Increasingly, the technology has become a popular choice among motorists who find it a helpful aid for parallel parking and, of course, backing up. But more than the latest creature comfort, rearview backup cameras promise ease of mind. So says

the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Its stance is that, while no technology is foolproof, backup cameras bring an entirely new level of safety benefit to the operation of vehicles around pedestrians, especially small children, persons with disabilities and the elderly. Tat’s precisely why the agency an- nounced on March 31 it was publishing a final rule to amend FMVSS 111, even changing the title to “rear visibility” from the previous nomenclature of “rearview mirror systems.” Te goal is to save lives and reduce injury. Te safety advocacy website documented 3,020 non-traffic fatal incidents involving children under age 15 from 1991 through 2012. Roughly a third of the fatalities, or 1,126, resulted from a back-over incident. Te total was nearly as much as total front- over incidents and total cases of child heat stroke inside the vehicle combined. Still, the move raised more than a few eyebrows. As we report on page 29, rearview backup cameras must be installed as standard equipment in vehicles

weighing less than 10,000 pounds GVWR by May 1, 2018 (motorcycles and trailers are exempt). Tat’s the same cutoff that NHTSA uses for its revised FMVSS 222 requirement for lap/shoulder seat belts on Type-A SRW small buses.

A third of non-traffic fatal incidents involving children under 15 result from a backover, says

Certainly there are potential ramifications for our industry regarding FMVSS 111. First off, all vehicle

manufacturers must file data with the feds by May 2016 that proves they are prepared to meet the mandate. Ten there is the incremental cost to the technology. As seen previously with stop arms and EPA diesel engine regulations and seat belts, to name a few, there are various reasons why the cost of manufacturing all vehicles rises more and more each year. Te market will likely adjust as it always does. And it appears that a relatively small number of school buses would be affected by the revised rule. Either

school districts will somehow absorb the cost, or chassis manufacturers will decide that the demand no longer dictates the need to supply an option under 10,000 pounds GVWR that requires the added expense of backup cameras. After all, only two school bus–ready chassis remain under this weight rating: the GMC Savana Cutaway and the Chevy Express 3500 Cutaway, both at 9,900 pounds GVWR. As one student transporter recently told me, it’s getting harder and harder to get the necessary capacity

in anything under 10,000 pounds and without rear duals. What will the Type A landscape look like in 2018 and beyond? Another concern is if the technology gives drivers the green light, so to speak, to back up. Many districts

and some states prohibit backing because of the risk of property damage, or worse. On the flip side, if driv- ers find it necessary to back up, then nothing is going to stop them. So at least backup cameras provide an additional tool to make operations safer. Insurance companies might decide to offer incentives for installing the cameras, like they have with other safety devices. Several questions remain. NHTSA has yet to research the effectiveness of the backup cameras. Perhaps that is the next step, as NHTSA actively plans to study the effectiveness of stop-arm cameras on reducing the number of illegal passers. Tis issue will likely garner more discussion as the industry ramps up for the National Congress on School Transportation next May. Stay tuned. 

12 School Transportation News May 2014

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