While it may seem hard to believe, bus carriers here in the United States transport nearly 700 million passengers per year, which is nearly equivalent to the number of passengers carried by domestic air carriers per year. However, unlike domestic air carriers, these bus carriers have not historically been subjected to stringent regulations and exacting inspections by federal officials.
Indeed, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency tasked with oversight of the intercity and tour bus company industry, has long faced criticism from safety advocates for what they perceived to be both a general lack of decisive investigatory actions and punitive measures taken against clearly unsafe operators.
Somewhat shockingly, this criticism of the FMCSA has not just been limited to vehicle safety advocates, however, as fellow government agencies have also expressed concerns.
To illustrate, the National Transportation Safety Board actually called for an active investigation into the FMCSA back in November, a move it claimed was necessitated by several high profile bus accidents that resulted in multiple fatalities and serious personal injuries.
The NTSB pointed to a horrific tour bus crash in California in which seven passengers were killed and 11 others seriously injured. Here, it was later determined that the bus in question had defective brakes, while several other buses in the company's fleet had major mechanical flaws. These issues would have been uncovered, argued the NTSB, if FMCSA officials had bothered conducting an examination, something that should have been done anyway given that the tour bus company had previously been cited multiple times for mechanical issues.
In the aftermath of this action by the NTSB, the FMCSA appears to be ramping up its efforts to police the tour bus industry.
To illustrate, the agency announced that it was shutting down 52 bus companies after a national crackdown held in December, while just last week it published new regulations that are designed to help it shut down noncompliant busing companies more easily.
Specifically, these regulations -- mandated in a bill passed by Congress back in 2012 -- would grant the FMCSA the power to shutter bus companies that have been cited for repeat issues in the past even though their most recent inspection wouldn't necessarily meet the criteria for closure.
Vehicle safety advocates are pleased with the long overdue development.
"We're pleased that they're doing this, but it's about time," said the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "It's outrageous that some of these carriers are still on the road and (the FMCSA) has looked the other way. Now, hopefully, that will change."
Here's hoping that these regulations do serve to make a difference and that the FMCSA continues its commitment to passenger safety ...
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash or bus accident here in Tennessee, remember to consider speaking with a dedicated legal professional to learn more about how you can pursue justice.
Source: Fox 29, "Shutting down unsafe bus companies to get easier," Joan Lowy, Jan. 17, 2014