Last winter, Daniel Nilsen Jørgensen experienced the worst nightmare of his life. He was on the E8 out of Tromsø in a Mercedes-Benz Tourismo. In the 70 zone and with a snow-covered main road, he suddenly saw a wheel loader crossing the road directly in front of him. Seconds later, Jørgensen hit the entire side of the wheel loader and was pinned down in a serious accident. He is glad he survived and he is also glad the politicians have now set stricter requirements for bus driver safety, but it is only a step in the right direction. – This is far from good enough, says Jørgensen.
For many cold minutes, which for Daniel Nilsen Jørgensen felt like an eternity, he sat stuck between metal, plastic, steering wheel and cables. He had just met the entire side of a wheel loader in the 70 zone on the E8 from Tromøs. It all happened so fast that he didn’t have time to think or act.
«I sat for a long time waiting to get free. It was just a miracle that I survived at all,» says Jørgensen, who had one of his legs broken in the collision with the wheel loader. The bus he was driving was nearly a meter shorter at the front after the accident. And experts cannot belive that someone could survive from such an accident. Daniel Nilsen Jørgensen spent three days in hospital before being discharged with only a broken foot. Miraculously, he can now again drive a tour bus with guests. And he is quite clear that it was the good passive built-in safety solutions in the Mercedes-Benz Tourismo that saved his life. A solution developed by Mercedes-Benz despite the lack of requirements and regulations.
He is also quite sure that he would not be here today if he had driven a city or suburban bus on the fateful night last winter. Because until 1. October there were no requirements for saftety solutions at the front. But even with new requirements in Norway, which in technical terms are called ECE R-29 front protection, this is not good enough when you ask Jørgensen.
There must be new requirements adapted to buses He believes it is too easy to simply copy an old requirement from the truck industry onto buses. ECE R-29 is basically a requirement that says something about the strength of the truck cabin. A weight of approximately 500 kilograms is released from a pendulum arm that stands 90 degrees out and goes straight to the front. After the impact, the front end should have minimal damage, and the driver should be able to emerge from the accident with little or no damage.
Fought for new rules for over 10 years Since 2012
Bussmagasinet has had a number of articles about this solution that Mercedes-Benz introduced as standard when their latest generation of Citaro was released on the market in the same year. Here, Mercedes-Benz had managed to build a solid steel profile in the front which helps protect the driver somewhat from a frontal collision. Today, this solution is available on almost all city and scheduled buses on the market and was introduced as a requirement for all new buses from 1 October in Norway. A few years ago, the YTF, together with Bussmagasinet, held a large conference in Bodø with a focus on driver safety in buses.
This laid the foundation for the consultation round that the government held earlier this year and which ultimately resulted in new demands. But during the conference it also became clear that one must work towards a separate requirement for workplace safety for bus drivers.
This must be raised at EU level.
At the world’s largest bus fair in Brussels, Busworld, a conference was held on Tuesday under the auspices of Ruter, the Kollektivtrafikkforeningen and all the industry organizations in Norway. The goal is to put driver safety on the agenda in the EU. A report was presented, and this shows which measures should be put in place. That together with the background for the report. Jørgensen was lucky to manage with his life. Unfortunately, we in Norway have lost an average of one bus driver per year in the last 10 to 12 years. This despite the fact that in Europe the number of serious bus accidents is falling.
Unfortunately, the safety of the drivers has been forgotten, while the safety of the passengers has been a high priority worldwide. Requirements for rollover protection, seat belts and seat fastening have saved many lives over the years. But for the driver, nothing has happened until now.
Now Jørgensen hopes that the industry, politicians, and others can listen to his story, take in how vulnerable this professional group is. Then, come up with requirements that are adapted to buses. But he is clear that this has to be raised at EU level to get all the producers on board.