The accident involving a multi-axle Volvo bus in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday has raised questions of safety standards in public transport vehicles. About 300 Volvo buses operate services from Kerala to Puducherry, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and other cities.
Talking to The Hindu, Road Safety expert and Director of the Kochi-based Indian Institute of Road Safety Upendra Narayan said certain design flaws could have possibly worsened the impact of the accident. He said the intensity of the crash was higher in stage carriers that had the fuel tank on the right, as it was prone to accidents.
Mr. Narayan, a former member of the Kerala State Road Safety Council, said a proposal to shift the fuel tank from the right to the left was pending with the Union government for the past 11 years. He had mooted the proposal to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
He said the safe measure would be to shift the fuel tank to the left in Volvo buses and to the centre portion between the chassis and behind the rear in other vehicles.
Questions have been raised about emergency exits in Volvo buses and illegal transport of LPG cylinders by the bus crew to cook food at parking grounds.
A Motor Vehicle Department official told The Hindu that they were aware of the safety concerns of passengers travelling by stage carriers. The fire accident occurred even as the recommendations of three commissions to improve safety standards in public transport vehicles in the State were yet to be fully implemented.
The Haridas Commission, which probed the accident at Chemmanad on February 5, 1994, involving a KSRTC Fast Passenger bus and a coir-laden truck on NH 47, that claimed the lives of 38 people, had suggested additional covering for fuel tanks and fire extinguishers in all public transport vehicles. Though fire extinguishers were made mandatory, the KSRTC said it was not practical to provide these in all buses of the corporation. Stage carriers would have fire extinguishers when produced for registration and the CF Test, the official said.
The then State Transport Commissioner, K.J. Joseph, who probed the accident involving a private bus at Ainkombu in Palai on October 21, 1998, had suggested shifting of the battery box to below the floor of the bus to prevent outbreak of fire, shifting of the battery box away from the diesel tank and exhaust pipe, and a change in the body structure.
The MVD has made mandatory the installation of a ‘U’ bracket to protect the propeller shaft and to prevent its collision with the diesel tank. But, often the KSRTC and operators of stage carriers remove the bracket after the CF Test.
Mr. Narayan said the State Transport Commissioner, who is also the Road Safety Commissioner, should check design flaws in stage carriers.