Senator Hawley’s Bipartisan ‘Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act’ Passes Senate Commerce Committee

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Today U.S. Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) bipartisan legislation to improve the safety of duck boats following the 2018 tragedy on Table Rock Lake passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation.

“For too long, Congress has failed to take action to help stop these tragedies like the one that killed so many at Table Rock Lake. With my bipartisan bill clearing the Commerce Committee today, we’re one step closer. This legislation is about enacting commonsense safety recommendations that the NTSB has been making for years, like requiring life jackets and better equipping duck boats in case of emergency flooding. I hope the Senate will take this bill up with the urgency it deserves.”

Senator Josh Hawley

“We must do everything we can to ensure an incident like the Duck Boat tragedy on Table Rock Lake, which claimed the lives of 17 victims and left their loved ones grieving their loss, never happens again,” Senator Blunt said. “This bill requires commonsense safety measures that are long overdue and should be put into effect immediately. I was proud to partner with Senator Hawley on this bill and support it in the Commerce Committee. With the bill now ready for consideration by the full Senate, I urge all of our colleagues to support our effort to keep people safe.”

“The sinking of a duck boat in 2018 was a tragedy that should never happen again,” Senator Cotton said. “Our bill will introduce new guidelines to help ensure that duck boat tours are a safe, reliable recreation activity for families around the country.”

“I’m pleased to see our bipartisan legislation reported favorably by the Senate Commerce Committee today,” Senator Duckworth said. “We’ve already seen too many tragedies involving these vessels, and I’m glad that we’re finally one step closer to ensuring that necessary oversight and safety precautions are implemented to prevent unnecessary accidents in the future.”

Sen. Hawley’s Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act would authorize previously-outlined National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations, including commonsense provisions to require the use of life jackets and equipping all operating duck boats to be more buoyant in the case of emergency flooding.

Amendments were made to the bill during the committee process. Those amendments include requirements to log various safety actions, mandatory annual safety trainings for crew, and consideration of safety recommendations in previous incident reports. Other amendments would require the Commandant of the Coast Guard to provide a report to Congress regarding the status of implementation of the regulations and various technical changes.

The bipartisan list of co-sponsors, to-date, includes Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).


Amphibious Passenger Vehicles (APVs) are passenger vehicles viable on both land and on water. The most common APVs are amphibious tour buses or DUKWs (commonly referred to as “duck boats”). On July 19, 2018, 17 people died and 11 others were injured when a duck boat capsized on Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm near Branson, Missouri, in one of the deadliest boating accidents in U.S. history.

This tragedy could have been avoided. The Duck Boat Safety Enhancment Act implements reasonable safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that would have prevented the tragedy on Table Rock Lake and will preserve both safety and fun for future duck boat riders. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation unanimously reported the bill as amended.

Amendments to the Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act include:

  • Requirement to Log Actions 

    Operator of amphibious passenger vehicles must check and notate in the vessel’s logbook the National Weather Service forecast before getting underway and periodically while underway and log that they informed and visually checked that seatbelts are not worn during waterborne operations.

  • Mandatory Annual Training 

    Operators and crew of amphibious passenger vehicles must complete annual training in several areas, including personal flotation and seat belt requirements, verifying the integrity of the vessel, identifying water hazards, use of National Weather Services resources, and responding to emergency situations.

  • Consideration of Recommendations from Reports

    In addition to the recommendations following the incident in Table Rock, Missouri, the bill requires the Coast Guard to address recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and Coast Guard Marine Investigation Board reports on incidents in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Seattle, Washington.

  • Reports and Technical Changes 

    The amended text incorporates several technical changes and a requirement that the Commandant of the Coast Guard provide a report to Congress regarding the status of implementation of the regulations.