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EU-Taiwan bus safety seminar

On 13 November the ECCT participated in a full-day seminar on bus safety arranged by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MoTC). At the event, Chen Yen-po, Secretary General of the MoTC gave an opening address as did ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo and Viktoria Lovenberg, Deputy Head of the European Economic and Trade Office. The opening speeches were followed by a series of presentations on bus safety and a panel discussion.

In his speech, Secretary General Chan spoke about the importance of safety as well as energy efficiency for buses. According to Chen, the MoTC started investing in safety related programmes in 2010. It has since invested NT$3-5 billion on these programmes as well as NT$6 billion in upgrading the ageing public bus fleet to newer models. According to Chen, there are 30,000 buses and coaches in Taiwan transporting six million passengers a day. Given the large volume, safety is a top priority. Chen said that the government has started to harmonise its regulations with those of the EU and has already adopted over 50 regulations. Chen said that Taiwan authorities are aware that automotive safety is very advanced in the EU and its standards and practices are therefore an important reference for Taiwan.

In her remarks, EETO Deputy Head Lövenberg welcomed Taiwan's efforts to bring its safety standards in line with international and EU standards, which take into account efficiency, safety and environmental protection. She noted that having Taiwan's standards aligned with international standards also helps to strengthen bilateral trade and the competitiveness of Taiwanese manufacturers. Following international standards is also much more efficient and cheaper given the high costs associated with manufacturing buses.

In his remarks, ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo said that vehicle, road and traffic safety are top priorities for ECCT members in the Automotive committee and that the chamber therefore welcomed the opportunity to share with the Taiwan government and local industry their knowledge and experience gained from over a century of vehicle manufacturing. The chairman noted that the ECCT's Automotive committee represents Europe's top vehicle brands that build some of the world's best cars, trucks and buses, that the European Union has the world's most advanced standards for vehicle safety and quality and that ECCT members are constantly investing in new ways to improve vehicle safety and efficiency even further. He concluded his opening remarks by saying that he hoped that the ECCT's contribution will help the government's efforts to introduce the best international bus safety standards for Taiwan and encourage all players in Taiwan's bus industry to implement the most advanced quality and safety standards in Taiwan.


Topic: EU approval schemes for buses
Speaker: Donald MacDonald, Branch Head, International Vehicle Standards Department for Transport, United Kingdom

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE or ECE), established in Geneva in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among European Union (EU) member states, is the global forum for vehicle regulation. Over 50 countries are involved across five continents and many other major markets accept UNECE regulations and Global Technical Regulations (GTR). These include 130 regulations in the "Type Approval scheme" and 13 Global Technical Regulations.

All of the UNECE's formal meetings take place in Geneva and Working Party 29 (WP29) is the management group that meets three times a year to vote on changes to UNECE regulations and monitor the activities of the various working groups responsible for different areas. The working party on General Safety Provisions (GRSG) is responsible for general safety, which includes bus safety and meets twice a year, in April and October.

The UNECE adopts a structured and inclusive approach to regulating vehicles. Technical groups are chaired by various countries and changes require the support of two thirds of members to become effective. Once regulations are agreed to there is a period of time to allow manufacturers to comply.

Besides UNECE regulations, EU member states can choose national schemes but are not obliged to have them.

While vehicle safety is the main focus of GRSG, other areas are also covered. For example, even protecting cyclists is covered by regulations dealing with indirect vision to improve safety for cyclists – a set of new rules in this regard will become effective next year.

The UNECE is an important forum for new technology which can be incorporated in new regulations such as camera monitoring systems instead of conventional mirrors in the future. The GRSG is the group that deals with bus safety, vehicles that can carry more than eight passengers. Basic safety rules require every bus or coach to have at least two doors, a roof hatch and an emergency exit, all of which must be clearly marked.

The GRSG has devised various safety tests such as the stability test (which makes sure buses do not fall over if tilted at 25 degrees on either side) while regulation 66 deals with strength of a vehicle's structure in the event of a rollover. There are also rules on the flammability of materials and fire extinguishers, although different countries have different rules in this regard. For example, the UK does not allow the use dry powder fire extinguishers because it reduces visibility and may harm passengers if they breathe in the fumes. Other rules specify the need for sufficient handholds and slip-resistant flooring material. Dimensions for wheelchairs have been set based on extensive research.

The EU has now harmonized its regulations throughout all 28 member states. There is a mandatory system of approval for all new vehicle types (road vehicles are covered under regulation 2007/46/EC). Type approval sets standards for environmental protection and safety and covers both chassis and body work to ensure vehicles meet all requirements.

Whole vehicle type approval authorises a manufacturer to produce vehicles to a proven specification and self-certify these as compliant with relevant legislation. Type approval is a procedure to set standards for safety and environmental protection, enable manufacturers to produce vehicles to unified standards and allows sale of vehicles in the European market. Both the vehicle and the production process require initial approval. After this, manufacturers need to demonstrate ongoing conformity of production. Conformity of production is important to ensure a quality management system is in place given that components and designs are frequently changed. Companies need to have change control procedure that ensures transparency and confidence in the quality. Any member state can issue approvals. UNECE regulations replace all previous directives and will take precedence in the UK. This will harmonise all regulations within the EU.

McDonald went on to talk about bus safety in the UK. The UK has a holistic approach to road safety which includes a focus on education of drivers, engineering and enforcement. He noted that road casualties have seen a steady decline over the past 50 years despite the exponential increase in the number of vehicles on the road. There are very few accidents involving buses and coaches thanks to an emphasis on safety and driver training. The UK maintains detailed statistics on road accidents in order to monitor and improve the system. A star rating system jointly developed between the UK and Sweden has played a big role in improving safety. Many manufacturers exceed minimum requirements. Manufacturers in the EU now only produce 4 or 5 star vehicles because consumers demand this. The improvement in technology has also led to a decrease in CO2 emissions – a gradual reduction of over 25% over the past 10 years.

Topic: Bus and coach safety
Speaker: Peter Danielson, Manager, Vehicle Features and Safety, Global Product Management, Volvo Buses

Volvo shares the Swedish government's vision to have no vehicle fatalities from its vehicles. Europe has been very successful in reducing road fatalities and injuries over the past 20 years and the UK and Sweden are the most advanced in terms of road safety. According to statistics quoted by Danielson, the number of bus accidents has fallen by 6.4% every year for the past 10 years and account for only 2.4% of fatalities, including bus accidents involved with other vehicles. Fatalities in Sweden now are even lower than the 1940s when there were very few cars on the road.

Looking at the types of accidents based on accident research, authorities and companies use the information to research ways to improve safety. Man-made errors are still the most frequent cause of accidents (90%) so Volvo is looking at ways to support drivers. In terms of active safety, Volvo has dynamic systems and handling properties for steering, brakes, suspension, weight distribution, collision avoidance, visibility, driver environment, driver alert systems and education. For example, the driver alert system monitor if driver is awake or distracted.

Driver education is an important focus for Volvo. Bus drivers have low status in many places but for more than 20 years Volvo has only sold vehicles in countries where it can also provide driver education. In terms of passive safety, Volvo has advanced safety features in its buses including a safety "cage" to protect the driver in the event of a collision or roll-over, restraint systems (seat belts and seat belt cushions for passengers) and "crash-friendly" interior and exterior designs to protect passengers.

Among other features, Volvo is working on new fire extinguishing systems for buses and an "alco-lock" system that prevents drivers who have consumed alcohol from driving. The company is also working on camera based pedestrian and forward collision warning systems.

Advanced safety features are expensive but customers are willing to pay for these features. While fatalities are dropping in Europe, they are rising in developing countries. New legislation is being phased in for advanced emergency braking and lane departure warning systems. Europe is currently debating weight and dimension regulations to reduce CO2 emissions.

Volvo plans to introduce plug-in buses by 2015. The company is the first manufacturer to introduce a front under-run protection system, a steel beam the same height as a standard car's bumper, which has been effective in reducing fatalities when buses collide with passenger cars. Coaches now also have much better front impact protection.

Volvo has developed an advanced electronic stability programme (ESP) to mitigate against sudden changes by the driver to avoid obstacles, or after overestimating curves. Danielson showed a video which demonstrated the superior performance of a bus equipped with EPS compared to one without when the driver has to make a sudden change.

The company has also introduced driver coaching, a device the size of a cell phone to alert drivers of dangers ahead. All Volvo models now have fire suppression in the engine compartment. New coach seats have three-point belts, softer backs and rearward facing child seats.

Battery cars offer new challenges for safety which Volvo has addressed. According to Danielson, there has not been a single accident on a Volvo hybrid bus to date. Among the range of new technologies the company is working on is driver awareness support, which monitors if a driver is awake. According to Danielson, vehicle to vehicle (V2x) communication will revolutionise safety and allow vehicles to avoid accidents completely in the future.

Topic: Coach safety – a shared responsibility
Speaker: Nick Leach, Director for Vehicle Sales Support, Asian Region, Scania

Scania has been producing vehicles for over 100 years. The company introduced its first coach in Taiwan in 1982.

According to Leach, safety is a collective responsibility between manufacturer, government, driver and maintenance.

The driver is the most important element which is why Scania, like Volvo, focuses a lot on driver training. For example, Scania recently worked with the MoTC on a downhill safety seminar. Scania has a driving team focused on when vehicles are handed over the driver knows how to handle them in terms of economy and safety. Scania has seen a marked improvement in efficiency and safety after drivers have attended Scania's training courses.

Scania makes bus bodies in Europe but not in Taiwan to save on costs, which means it can make very safe chassis but has little control over the body. Scania has an extensive R&D facility in Sweden employing over 2,000 people.

Leach showed a video demonstrating Scania's advanced electronic braking system (EBS) which allows for a much shorter braking distance compared to conventional air braking systems. According to Leach, Taiwan's regulators could improve safety considerably by mandating ESP and this could be done easily because it is controlled by chassis manufacturers.

A lot of safety systems of the future involve cameras and sensors. This requires continued partnership. For example, new lane departure warning technology requires cameras and alarms but these need to be fitted in the body work, which makes it difficult to do in Taiwan given that Scania is not in control of the body work.

The EU has legislation on mirrors but Taiwan needs local regulations and enforcement to implement the same rules for bus bodies. Controlling quality through conformity of production is essential to ensure standards are maintained after the initial type approval. The tendency of Taiwan's bus manufacturers to put air conditioners at the back of buses can cause rear axle weight to be unbalanced.

Leach stressed the importance of regular maintenance to detect problems at an early stage to avoid breakdowns and/or accidents. Maintenance is highly regulated in the EU. Scania has various tools to monitor things like brake lining. Regulations are great but enforcement is also needed. Allowing longer buses would allow more passengers, and thereby improve sustainability.

Topic: Vehicle safety regulations in Taiwan
Speaker: Wu Hsiang-ping, Manager, Research and Planning Department, Vehicle Safety Certification Center 

Wu gave an introduction to vehicle safety regulations in Taiwan. According to Wu many of Taiwan's regulations are already aligned with those of the UNECE in terms of type approval prior to vehicle registration and, when they are on the road, periodical inspections are done. The Vehicle Safety Certification Center (VSCC) is in charge of safety certification as well as recalls.

Starting from 2006, all Taiwan's regulations have been based on UNECE regulations and a regulatory harmonisation plan has been phased in over the subsequent years. So far 52 UNECE regulations have been introduced and implemented in Taiwan.

Bus height in Taiwan has been set at 3.5 metres or they have to undergo tilt stability test to see if they can stay upright if tilted at 35%. New requirements stipulate that buses need to be tested with a full load to ensure that they can operate safety with a full load.

Starting from 2015, all buses will require new seatbelt regulations with 3-point seat belts in the front two rows. Taiwan gives manufacturers a choice of four types of tests for superstructure. Taiwan draws on UNECE R107 03 for fire prevention regulations.

The MoTC is now promoting the use of articulated buses. Regulations are in line with UNECE. The MOTC has also set anti-lock braking systems (ABS) regulations. All new vehicles need to have ABS. Most manufacturers don't have a problem with durability but large coaches need to endure more than 50,000 kilometres and the ministry is considering revising this up to 200,000 kilometres.

Local bus and coach operators are considering installing cameras to help the driver see in blind spots and behind the vehicle. Taiwan is now discussing Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) regulations, also new to the UNECE. Under AEBS, automatic braking occurs if driver does not react quickly enough. Wu said that Taiwan will listen to the industry and academia regarding AEBS regulations. Wu also talked about regulations governing vehicle recalls.

Buses in Taiwan are subject to periodic and ad-hoc inspections or when they modify equipment or design. Periodic inspections are required once a year to check brakes, front wheel alignment and visual inspections among other items. Taiwan has also tightened regulations on tyres to ensure that the tread is deep enough. Buses over 10 years old have to be maintained every four months and drivers need to show evidence while buses older than 12 years are not allowed to travel on certain routes.

Q&A session
Moderated by Chou Wei-kuo, CEO, VSCC
Panelists answered a number of questions from the audience. On the question as to whether AEBS is already mandatory in the EU, Danielson said that the first phase is to be implemented on 1 October 2015 and that Volvo has already started implementing it in its new vehicles.

On the issue of the age of vehicles, panelists from Volvo and Scania agreed that the age is not so much a factor as long as vehicles are properly maintained and meet roadworthy requirements. Panelists also talked about the need for driver refresher courses to ensure that drivers do not relapse into bad habits.

On the issue of bus height, Europe allows buses to be up to four metres high compared to only 3.5 metres in Taiwan even though weather conditions in Europe are usually more severe than in Taiwan. Panelists from Volvo and Scania said they have done research which concludes that height is not a safety hazard and neither is length (buses in Europe are as long as 15 metres). Statistics prove that four-metre high vehicles do have higher accident rates than 3.5 metre-vehicles. What is a much more significant issue is if vehicles have unbalanced loads. Vehicles with heavy loads at the back could capsize in strong winds and reduced axle weight in the front can cause aquaplaning.

Panelists concluded that if Taiwan made ESP mandatory on buses, it would make them much safer. They also advised Taiwan regulators to focus on weight distribution and three-axle vehicles rather than height.