U.S. DOT Cracks Down on Unsafe Bus Companies after Rash of Accidents

Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on December 12 that they formally shut down 52 unsafe bus companies – along with 340 buses and other types of vehicles – as a result of an eight-month investigation that targeted unsafe motor coach operations.

According to officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the shutdown of several unsafe bus companies came in response to two highly-publicized fatal bus accidents that occurred in the U.S. in the last year.

FMCSA Responds to Accidents Involving Unsafe Bus Companies

In December 2012, nine people were killed and 39 more were reportedly injured after a Mi Joo Tour & Travel tour bus crashed in Oregon. Officials who conducted the investigation regarding that particular crash have concluded that the driver who was operating the bus in that incident had exceeded the 70-hour work limit, which prohibits motor coach operators from accumulating more than 70 working hours over a period of eight days.

In the second newsworthy incident, a bus operating for company Scapadas Magicas was involved in a deadly crash near San Bernardino, Calif. that killed seven bus passengers and also the driver of another vehicle. Dozens more were reportedly injured in that accident, and investigators later found that the company had failed to maintain its buses and take the proper procedures to guarantee its drivers were properly trained and licensed, according to the FMCSA.

“In the aftermath of two deadly crashes earlier this year, FMCSA re-examined the way we investigate passenger carriers to make our methods even more effective at preventing crashes,” said Marissa Padilla, spokeswoman for the FMCSA. “Using safety and roadside inspection data, FMCSA identified 250 high-risk carriers for top-to-bottom investigations designed to uncover any patterns of unsafe behavior or faulty bus maintenance.”

Impact of FMCSA Bus Safety Investigations

According to the FMCSA, officials with the agency used safety and roadside-inspection data available to them in order to identify the 250 most potentially unsafe bus companies in the country. They then put these companies through extensive testing protocol in order to determine whether there were consistent patterns of unsafe behavior or if the companies failed to properly maintain their vehicles.

As a result, 52 motor coach companies throughout the United States were officially put out of business – likely because the FMCSA discovered concerning business protocols or consistent failures to properly maintain their vehicles. At the same time, it should be seen as a positive sign that a significant percentage of the remaining companies were alerted of safety violations and took the proper steps to correct those violations.

Additionally, 28 individual agencies were able to avoid being shut down because of their acknowledgement of mistakes and cooperation with best-practices for avoiding lapses in the future. The agency reportedly inspected a total of 1,300 vehicles in the investigation, 340 of which were removed from the companies or decommissioned altogether.

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