Further improving the high safety level of buses

30 Sept 2020
For many years, DEKRA accident researchers have participated in diverse research projects on the safety of buses including in conjunction with fires. Numerous advances – such as those resulting from regulations governing emergency exits and evacuation or the mandatory installation of fire alarm systems in the engine compartment – are based on this research work.
DEKRA experts have recently evaluated several hundred fire incidents in Germany, in other European countries, and in the USA.
One of the most obvious results of the evaluation confirms the findings of previous studies: the majority of bus fires start in the engine compartment. “This applied in around 80 percent of cases,” summarizes the DEKRA expert. “Only a very small number of the buses affected already featured fire alarms or even fire extinguishing systems. Our analyses show that these systems would have activated in the vast majority of cases. The potential of their (now mandatory) installation to further improve safety is beyond doubt. If the fire is detected earlier, the driver has more time to stop at a suitable location and allow the occupants to disembark.”

Electronic safety systems help prevent accidents

Since the vast majority of bus fires that cause severe injuries or fatalities among occupants occur as a result of an accident, the prevention of accidents has a major role to play. “In particular, further improved automatic emergency braking assistance systems and lane keeping systems offer major potential here,” says Markus Egelhaaf. “We also believe that bus manufacturers should focus even more strongly on designs that eliminate as far as possible the combination of leaking fuel and an effective ignition source even during an accident.”
At the end of the day, driver training also plays an important role from an accident research perspective. “They must be fully trained to recognize a fire and to respond correctly if the fire alarm system in the engine compartment is activated. Regular training in the use of fire extinguishers must also be provided.” Last but not least, passengers must also be better prepared for emergency situations, which will gain valuable time in an accident. The DEKRA accident researchers also see scope for optimizing emergency exits for the rapid evacuation of buses.