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Transportation Dept. responds to lax bus safety policy, P.2

June 23, 2011

In our previous post, we began discussing a recent decision by Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood in which he put an end to a common practice in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of granting 10-day extension periods to companies found to be in serious violations of safety regulations. Such extensions are meant to give companies time to correct their mistakes and thus avoid a shutdown.

That decision came shortly after a recent bus crash near Richmond, Virginia 3 days into a 10-day extension. Four passengers were killed in the wreck. Putting an end to the extension periods is just the latest in a string of developments in the busing industry, which has lately been plagued by a rash of accidents and calls for reform.

As Bloomberg points out, federal regulators give such extensions only when a company has submitted a “corrective action plan” to address problems noted by safety inspectors. In the case of Sky Express, the operator of the bus which crashed last month near Virginia, they had submitted such a plan. That plan apparently met and exceeded the agency’s minimum requirements for all categories cited. Although the details of the plan were not released, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited the operator for driver fatigue and fitness, and another unspecified serious violations in an April 7 report.

In addition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Transportation Department has been criticized for its handling of bus safety cases. One of the criticisms is that the Department handles bus safety violations with less seriousness than airline safety violations.

The Virginia crash comes shortly after other deadly accidents that have shaken the busing industry. One of those accidents, which occurred in New Jersey on March 12, left 15 passengers dead. Two days after that accident, another one took place in New York which killed two and injured numerous others.

Since those accidents, legislators have been calling for reform and improved safety regulations, particularly aimed at get illegal motor coach operators off the road.

Source: Bloomberg, “Unsafe Buses Stay on Road as U.S. Regulator Backs Off Shutdowns,” Jeff Plungis, 12 June 2011.

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