Mumbai: In the wake of the Buldhana accident and other recent mishaps involving sleeper buses, the State Transport Department has requested the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) to re-inspect the design of vehicles and safety measures implemented in them, said Maharashtra Transport Commissioner Vivek L Bhimanwar. Notably, several countries have suspended the operation of sleeper buses. Even China, which is one of the largest manufacturers of such buses, ceased selling them in 2014.
“It is expected that the re-inspection by the ARAI will shed light on potential design flaws or safety gaps in sleeper buses hence paving the way for necessary modifications and improvements. The aim is to enhance passenger safety and prevent accidents,” said an official.
Inherent risks associated with sleeper buses
Sleeper buses, which allow passengers to lie down during their journeys, have gained popularity in India due to their convenience. However, experts have pointed out the inherent risks associated with these vehicles, particularly during accidents or emergencies. The height and limited space for movement pose a significant challenge for passengers to access emergency exits during critical situations. “The outcome of the ARAI's re-inspection and subsequent recommendations will likely have a significant impact on the future operation and design of sleeper buses in India,” added the official.
The state transport department's decision reflects the urgency to re-evaluate the design and safety features of sleeper buses. ARAI's expertise in engineering services, certification, research and development, and technology initiatives makes them the ideal authority to assess and recommend improvements to the existing sleeper bus designs.
On July 1, 26 passengers were burnt alive while eight others were left injured after a sleeper bus dashed with a divider in the Buldhana district, and caught fire. In October 2022, at least 12 passengers were killed and around two dozen injured after a bus collided with a truck and burst into flames in the Nashik district.
The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), an autonomous body affiliated with the Ministry of Heavy Industries, has been entrusted with the task of inspecting and certifying vehicle designs. Established in 1966, the ARAI has been recognised by the department of scientific and industrial research and Union Ministry of Science and Technology. It's also one of the prime testing and certification agencies notified by the Government of India under rule 126 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.