Buses feel heat of Federal safety crackdown

Surprise inspections nationwide by a joint federal-state law enforcement “strike force” pulled 289 motor-coach buses and their drivers off the road for being unsafe in just one nine-day stretch. According to the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), the “coordinated enforcement strike force” of Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) inspectors working with state and local law-enforcement officers issued out-of-service violation citations to 156 drivers and 262 vehicles

Surprise inspections nationwide by a joint federal-state law enforcement “strike force” pulled 289 motor-coach buses and their drivers off the road for being unsafe in just one nine-day stretch. According to the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), the “coordinated enforcement strike force” of Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) inspectors working with state and local law-enforcement officers issued out-of-service violation citations to 156 drivers and 262 vehicles.

Those violations were found amid 2,782 passenger-carrier safety inspections conducted between March 28 and April 6 as part of FMCSA’s ongoing effort to focus more closely on the safe operation of passenger buses.

Earlier, from March 12 to March 28, an estimated 3,000 passenger carrier safety inspections were conducted across the country, noted DOT, resulting in nearly 300 passenger-carrier vehicles being put out of service that 17-day stretch.

While neither DOT or FMCSA made note of any tie-in, the bus crackdown that ramped up in mid-March came on the heels of several recent spectacular and fatal – and widely reported— accidents involving interstate buses. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer /Daily News pointed out in an online news report that Super Luxury Tours Inc., which was deemed an “imminent hazard to public safety” after a fatal March 14 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike was among the bus companies placed out of service during the crackdown—and the bus linewas ordered to cease operations.

“The Super Luxury Tours Inc. bus that crashed was headed to Philadelphia when it entered the grass on the center median and hit the overpass support and then crashed into the embankment on the right side of the road,” the Inquirer reported. “Two people including the driver and a passenger were killed and 40 others were hospitalized.”

"Working side-by-side with our state and local law enforcement partners, we can ensure that every passenger-bus company and driver operates as safely as possible," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "These strike force activities are one of the many effective tools we use year-round to raise the safety bar for commercial buses and drivers on our nation's roadways."

According to FMCSA, the agency has “significantly increased” the safety inspections and compliance reviews it conducts on the nation's estimated 3,700 registered motor-coach companies.

The number of roadside safety inspections of motor coaches has doubled from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, noted FMCSA, and compliance reviews on motor-coach companies more than doubled from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010.

Without tying the statistic to federal safety enforcement, DOT pointed out that “passenger fatalities have decreased from 57 in 2004 to 46 in 2009, a 19% reduction”

"Safety is our number one priority," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to shut down unsafe passenger-bus companies that place motorists at risk and remove drivers from our roads who put passengers in harm's way."

According to FMCSA, “a member of the traveling public who suspects an unsafe commercial driver or carrier should always call their local 911 system first.” The agency added that the public can also report an unsafe driver or carrier at: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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