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Old 30th August 2012, 23:16   #1
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Default Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Today we speak lot about the Intercity bus travel. Many factors like convenience of boarding, ease of ticket purchasing, wider options to choose in terms of operator and range have done this change. There is a paradigm shift from the way we traveled in past. Without any much of debate I can say Volvo has revolutionized how we look at the bus travel. And a big thanks to the rapid Infrastructure development that is connecting India and is a big catalyst in this change.

Among the range of buses we have now, sleeper coaches are picking up faster. They are the most convenient(at least for me) among the choices we have. Even for the operators the order of filling is the sleeper buses, Multi axles, single axle buses and then the regular AC and Non AC service. This I have given in routes where all options are available - eg : Che - Blr, Che - Tvm, Blr - Tvm. The ticket price also follows the same order.

As such there is no CMVR/ARAI for a sleeper bus to manufacture in India(But this is also on the way). But we always have someways to bypass rules. Only OEM's can't make a sleeper coach and its always possible to be made by a coach builder. Even govt owned STU's are interested in promoting this and are operating sleeper coaches.

Earlier operators had option to go for sleeper coaches only with external body builder in FE buses made by AL/TM. But now with manufacturers like Volvo and Merc supporting this, made them to buy the shell and build sleeper coaches externally. Isuzu and Man are supplying the ready to use sleeper bus (in a different invoicing pattern).

Neeta took the big lead in converting brand new regular Volvo Multi axle to sleeper. This initially created huge turbulence among the competitors and due to that the first pair was ceased for few weeks and with all its power Neeta released them and added few more pairs. Now the ticket fair in the Blr-Mum route stands at 2000 for this bus. Next the recent addition was Kallada's Merc Multi axle sleepers. In this case the ticket fare was still higher (comparing the distance) at 1600 between Blr - Tvm. This shows that even at exorbitant ticket fares there were always preferences for sleeper coaches.

But I always have the opinion of sleeper coaches are far from less in terms of safety. Two main reasons are - The sleeping position is very tricky for you to escape during emergency and second is the higher center of gravity of sleeper buses. The weight distribution is completely different for a seater and sleeper bus and its very dangerous at times in high speeds.

The father / mother of Sleeper bus accident was KPN's brand new (hardly a month old when it met with accident) AL Viking killing more than 20 passengers.
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The recent one being the Kallada's Merc Multi axle sleeper accident.
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We had a faster than expected growth in the infrastructure but the most dangerous part is the lack of or non implementation of existing regulations. Now the average speed has increased considerably without increase in the better driving habits. Speed limits are still a name sake and only few operators are following it religiously. And its no surprise that India is leading in number of deaths in road accidents - a whooping 1 lakh plus people loose their life in road accidents.

The main reason for me to bring this thread is the china's response to increasing sleeper accidents happening there. Unlike India China has the following differences in sleeper buses.

- Sleeper buses started to ply from early 90's.
-Fare is much cheaper.
-OEM can build sleepers and are in 1+1+1 config.
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-More than 37000 sleeper buses are in operation
-They travel upto max 2000 kms in a single trip.

Even there the sleeper were more frequent to meet an accident than a regular ones. After this accident many things have changed in China. As per the article China has already stopped production of sleeper coaches and they are planning to phase out the existing buses in few years from now.

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Quote:
The sleeper bus, a unique public transportation means in China, may disappear from the roads in five or six years, and restrictions on its use are being considered to prevent more accidents from happening, a senior official said.

In the early hours of Sunday, 36 people in a sleeper bus were killed when it rammed into a tanker carrying methanol, a highly flammable liquid, and caught fire on a highway in Shaanxi province.

The government halted the manufacturing of sleeper buses on March 1, and work safety authorities will take measures to make sure manufacturers follow the order, said Zhu Yichang, deputy director of the policy and regulation department of the State Administration of Work Safety
Source

Another one

I am not concluding that sleepers are the only means of accident but still enforcement of laws should atleast reduce the number of accidents we are encountering now.
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Old 30th August 2012, 23:55   #2
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A very detailed thread and informative one as well. IMHO the focus should be more on reducing accidents. I have travelled a couple of times in KPN sleepers and was shocked to see the accident. Some roads are just not meant for such huge buses.

Also what i have observed is that many opeartors stick to timelines due to which they have to speed up the total travel time. I travelled from Kodaikanal to chennai by KPN sleeper. The bus was scheduled to leave Kodaikanal at 7pm and reach chennai by 5am.

Due to a breakdown, the bus was delayed and left Kodaikanal by 12am. Very suprisingly, my mom wakes me up at 8am in the morning and tells me to wake up as we reached Chennai.

I do not remember the exact timings, but the trip was done faster than the average trip time. If we go deep down into stats and data, What would be the increase in average speed and increase the driver would have taken to acheive this strict timeline.
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Old 31st August 2012, 04:06   #3
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Default re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Sleeper coaches are a boon, but needs to be driven by an experienced driver who is good in handling sleeper coaches. In the last 1 year, I must have made atleast 25 trips in sleeper coaches (BLR-Coimbatore in A1 Travels) and I find it very comfortable when you are travelling with kids.
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Old 31st August 2012, 06:45   #4
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Very informative . Thank you.
From this thread there are 2 prominent questions in my mind.
1) are sleeper buses inherently less safer than regular multi axle?
2) or Are sleeper buses less safe due to driver conditions.

In the quoted example in china. I think given the inflammability of the cargo. Any bus would probably meet with the same ending. However seeing the layout in the pictue it doesnt seem to be difficult to escape (compared to our sleeper layout. The real reason for phasing out those buses is the new high speed rail systems that the chinese govt has installed At very high costs.(upwards of 200 billion USD) and these cut down travel time by leaps and bounds. And china has very stringent requirenmemnts regarding roadworthinessof vehicles and 22 year old buses will not make the cut.

the second point is more valid IMHO becuase there are no OEM sleepers and Ever sleeper bus schedule i have seen indicates that these buses are slower than the regular volvos. This puts enormous pressures on the drivers to reach in time.
As per the article no where is it mentioned that the sleeper configuration is the cause of accidents. Driver fatigue, sleepiness has nothing to do with sleeper configuration. And the swaying of bus in the xinjang region, well the xinjiang region is so hilly and ghat filled that it makes parts of leh look like a walk in (the park.

Finally xinhuanet, china daily arent the best sources for accurate news becuSe they print what the government releases. They are wonderful papers but sometime more colorful about small issues in order to hide larger issues at hand.

Regards,
Harsha
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Old 31st August 2012, 07:44   #5
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Default re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Have not travelled in Volvo/ Merc sleepers, but regular (Viking based) sleepers are hardly any more comfortable than a semi-sleeper Volvo. Hence I do not understand this premium pricing they are offered at.

I would still prefer the 1x2 seating arrangement that some Viking based buses had some years ago. These buses are no longer being used, at least among the major carriers.

OT, but have not found even train berths to be comfortable. Hence would prefer taking a day journey by car when possible.
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Old 2nd September 2012, 16:17   #6
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Even the economics of sleeper bus must be bad, 20 berths are what you get in exchange for 35 seats, and the money lost in 15 seats have to be recovered by increasing the fares of the berth

Two good things are that, one, busses are rarely full, seaters that is, so a full sleeper is better utilization of seats if you can see where I'm coming from. Second is that it doesn't matter if you are sleeping in the first or last berth, passengers are less finicky about seat position
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Old 2nd September 2012, 17:10   #7
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Recently there was an accident near Peenya which involved a sleeper bus braking hard to avoid a Tata Ace coming on wrong side. Bus was hit by a hatchback from behind, which in turn was hit by a truck.

Although the truck did not hit the bus, an 18 year old passenger sleeping in the last berth suffered fatal neck injury due to bus' hard braking. He was shifted to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

I wonder, how much time does it take for all passengers to escape only from emergency exits. We can compare the data between buses of different seating configurations. There should be a norm like in large passenger planes: all passengers should be able to escape in 78 seconds using only half the emergency exits.
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Old 2nd September 2012, 19:45   #8
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rohanjf View Post
Although the truck did not hit the bus, an 18 year old passenger sleeping in the last berth suffered fatal neck injury due to bus' hard braking. He was shifted to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
In this incident, I think the passenger would have been sleeping with his head towards the front of the bus. The rate of deceleration is generally much greater than acceleration, so one must always lie with ones head towards the rear of the bus. This should be part of the instructions provided to passengers at boarding.

Also, I don't think these buses are any less safe inherently, because seatbelts are either not mandatory or not available in the regular semi-sleeper buses. In sleepers, the lower passenger brings the centre of gravity down, and the upper passenger takes it up, which should average it out to approximately the same as it is in a sleeper. Lesser passengers with (presumably) a comparable amount of luggage in the lower compartments should make it at least as stable as the regular semi-sleeper busses.

The biggest concern though is the lack of restraints. However that can probably be debated as I don't believe there are restraints designed for sleepers (train or bus) anywhere. Please correct me if I am wrong.
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Old 2nd September 2012, 20:18   #9
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

This discussion becomes more relevant in the light of recent news which left many of frequent travelers wondering,Are these custom built buses safe? Do they adhere to any safety norms ? Are there any checks in place by local RTO to ensure they adhere?
Bangalore is home to some of popular bus coach factories, Does anyone know more on this?

Thousands of private buses leave Bangalore every night to hundreds of destinations. One common sight is roof top loaded with heavy luggage. This causes such an imbalance while driving down ghat sections.
There is a Supreme court ruling which strictly prohibits loading luggage onto roof top
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Old 4th September 2012, 14:59   #10
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Quote:
Originally Posted by harshaguduru View Post
Very informative . Thank you.
From this thread there are 2 prominent questions in my mind.
1) are sleeper buses inherently less safer than regular multi axle?
2) or Are sleeper buses less safe due to driver conditions..
From my view sleepers are less safe than any regular buses - seaters, due to sleeping postures.
If the driving conditions and driving manners are bad, then none of the buses are safe especially in the high speeds above 100 kmph.

Quote:
Originally Posted by harshaguduru View Post
In the quoted example in china. I think given the inflammability of the cargo. Any bus would probably meet with the same ending. However seeing the layout in the pictue it doesnt seem to be difficult to escape (compared to our sleeper layout. The real reason for phasing out those buses is the new high speed rail systems that the chinese govt has installed At very high costs...
the second point is more valid IMHO becuase there are no OEM sleepers and Ever sleeper bus schedule i have seen indicates that these buses are slower than the regular volvos. This puts enormous pressures on the drivers to reach in time.
As you said in this specific accident passengers chances of getting escape is less. But here in this layout there is nothing easy to escape. As such two passengers cant walk and it gets worst during emergency. Also the legs are inside the bunk and as such jumping out and running also difficult.


Quote:
Originally Posted by harshaguduru View Post
Finally xinhuanet, china daily arent the best sources for accurate news becuSe they print what the government releases. They are wonderful papers but sometime more colorful about small issues in order to hide larger issues at hand.
News to me.. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheARUN View Post
Even the economics of sleeper bus must be bad, 20 berths are what you get in exchange for 35 seats, and the money lost in 15 seats have to be recovered by increasing the fares of the berth

Two good things are that, one, busses are rarely full, seaters that is, so a full sleeper is better utilization of seats if you can see where I'm coming from. Second is that it doesn't matter if you are sleeping in the first or last berth, passengers are less finicky about seat position
For a 12m bus you can have 32 berths as aganist 36 semi sleeper seats. Overall occupnacy wise sleepers are better compared to semi sleepers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rohanjf View Post
Recently there was an accident near Peenya which involved a sleeper bus braking hard to avoid a Tata Ace coming on wrong side. Bus was hit by a hatchback from behind, which in turn was hit by a truck...
I also heard lot of accidents involving passengers falling off from upper berth in AP style berths.

Last edited by Ashley2 : 4th September 2012 at 15:19.
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Old 4th September 2012, 15:24   #11
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Quote:
Originally Posted by VeluM View Post
In this incident, I think the passenger would have been sleeping with his head towards the front of the bus. The rate of deceleration is generally much greater than acceleration, so one must always lie with ones head towards the rear of the bus. This should be part of the instructions provided to passengers at boarding.
.
Good piece of information. Thanks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thilak29 View Post
Thousands of private buses leave Bangalore every night to hundreds of destinations. One common sight is roof top loaded with heavy luggage. This causes such an imbalance while driving down ghat sections.
I feel a semi sleeper bus with heavy luggage on top is a more risky proposition than a sleeper without any luggage on top. It is a good idea for operators to use the undercarriage for luggage since this lowers the C.G.

Many of the new A/C sleepers do not load luggage on roof tops since the A/C condensor unit occupies the top space - which is good.

Note from the Team-BHP Support: Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another on the same thread.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 4th September 2012 at 21:08.
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Old 4th September 2012, 15:40   #12
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Good analysis AshLey sir. Let me chip in with my views:

1. Buses in India are basically un-safe(not all!) - the way the body is built(from the private body builders or road side ones!). Its just a wooden frame/steel frame upon which the panels are riveted. What about the crash-worthy frames? Impact absorption and load disspation? no/useless emergency exits designed in an unscientific way.

2. Most of the buses (AL/TML/Mercs) run around with drum brakes all around - braking efficiency against disks? AshLey sir, Surya T-Jet and others who are in the field please correct me if i am wrong in saying that basically drums are not that effective against disks.

3. Bad maintenance. Most operators keep the buses running even with worn out brake shoes/liners and many more critical components or replace/swap from other buses.

4. Overloading - 32 passengers plus Cargo - From my experience I have seen Supaa travels, A1 and national overload their buses to brim. That too Sleepers, full air suspension, see-sawing like huge boat.

5. Inexperienced drivers/lack of proper training to drive the taller/longer than normal buses with other than normal suspensions(air bellows).

6. Non-adherence to basic rules and by-passing rules to get permits and F/C's for buses. Lack of road manners and over speeding has been already broughtforth by other members.

7. Most important of all, Government's lack of will and boldness to take on the private operators and put an end to menace once the first accident takes place.

We(our government) are more reactive than proactive.
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Old 4th September 2012, 16:39   #13
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rohanjf View Post
...an 18 year old passenger sleeping in the last berth suffered fatal neck injury due to bus' hard braking. He was shifted to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Quote:
Originally Posted by VeluM View Post
In this incident, I think the passenger would have been sleeping with his head towards the front of the bus.
The last berth in many sleeper buses are placed across the width of the bus, unlike the other berths which are along the length. So, the deceased person's head must have hit the restraint bar and stopped moving, while his body portion continued to move forward towards the gangway - resulting in a neck injury.

If he were sleeping in any other berth, then such an injury is less likely.
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Old 4th September 2012, 18:01   #14
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Personally find sleeper bus less comfortable due to much higher body roll compared to a train. Also recommend and second the though about shunning the last sleeper berths which are at the end of the bus.

These are horizontal to the length of the bus and best described as claustrophobic tin cans both the lower and upper ones. Had a very bad experience myself by hitting my head to the roof of the lower berth when the bus missed slowing down a huge bump. Though the injury was not severe but had blood oozing out of my head and was luckily treated with first aid.

But the incident narrated is really unfortunate. So highly recommend do not take the last berths even if they are the only 2 seats available in the bus. Better to travel in a semi sleeper than those death traps. Check it out for yourself to verify the statement.
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Old 4th September 2012, 20:34   #15
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Default Re: Sleeper coaches : Bane or Boon?

Took sleeper bus just once, in the last higher (cross) seat (bed?!) in a B7R just once from Chennai to Bangalore. Despite being on GQ all the way, there was eerie floating / unstable feeling throughout. It took a minute to stand on stable floor after getting down (don't know if this is motion sickness, but didnt get it in anything else, even on flight / train!). Finally, the narrow gangway scared me and keeping me away from even thinking of any such option!
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