Bus Accidents Prompt Federal Regulator’s Scrutiny

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Motor Vehicle Accident on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The recent fatal bus crashes have prompted federal inspectors to increase their scrutiny of tour bus companies that have had prior accidents or other safety violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the federal agency responsible for regulating the activities of commercial bus companies, will institute a practice of inspecting the buses, rather than merely reviewing paper maintenance records.

The deadly tour bus accident in California that killed eight passengers came less than a month after a bus crash in Oregon killed nine. Both bus companies have been shut down by the FMCSA. Two of the buses owned by the California bus company were inspected after the crash and found to have serious mechanical safety violations. After the bus accident, the driver claimed the brakes failed. The company also failed to have their buses inspected on a regular basis, as required by federal regulations.

The FMCSA also found work rule violations from the Oregon crash, where the driver had worked 22 hours beyond his 70-hour limit for an eight-day period. These types of safety violations are a common thread when looking at the history of deadly bus accidents nationwide.

The FMCSA is responsible for inspecting over 4,000 bus companies throughout the country. An ongoing problem within the industry is phantom or “chameleon” carriers. These are bus companies that have been shut down by regulators, but then reopen under a new name. The companies often have the same owners and use the same address. The FMCSA has struggled to identify these entities and prevent their continuing safety violations from causing tragic accidents.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Gov’t to crack down on unsafe tour bus operators,” Associated Press, February 14, 2013

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