New recommendations after fatal Kuopio bus crash investigation

Four people were killed last year and the investigation finds that the driver's chronic illness contributed to the accident.

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File picture of aftermath of Kuopio bus crash onto railway, August 2018 / Credit: OTKES

Finland’s Safety Investigation Authority OTKES has made some key recommendations after their investigation into a fatal bus crash in Kuopio.

The crash happened last August when a tourist bus carrying passengers from Sweden and Finland crashed through a motorway barrier and fell onto a train line below. Four passengers were killed and nine others seriously injured.

OTKES says the driver’s alertness was lowered by his state of health and the long drive he’d had that day. The investigation finds he had little experience of driving the type of bus involved in the accident. He failed to break as he was taking the motorway exit, but there were no signs telling drivers to lower their speed and the view of the intersection was hampered by trees.

New safety recommendations

The investigation report says bus companies should have better documented safety plans that would help them assess risks and take action against them – including proper occupational health care and good planning of work shifts.

Secondly, medical centres assessing drivers’ health should have better training about the specific requirements for bus drivers. In this case, the driver had a chronic illness that contributed to the accident, but he wasn’t given any extra check-ups or closer examination of how it might impact his ability to do the job.

Thirdly, OTKES recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency specifically checks for problems with high blood sugar – which they say “likely contributes to accidents more often than is currently known”.

The report says that the Ministry of Transport should check requirements for monitoring the state of health for bus drivers – especially to psychiatric health and fatigue management.

“The monitoring of health is more comprehensive in aviation, marine transport and rail transport than in road passenger transports” says Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of OTKES.

“The aging of the driver pool also increases the need for monitoring. The monitoring and safeguarding of driver health must be promptly put in order in the entire bus sector” Nurmi adds.