Federal Regulators Announce Crackdown on Unsafe Bus Operators Following Fatal Bus Accidents
A tragic glut of tour bus accidents over the last year has motivated federal regulators to crack down on tour bus companies with poor safety records.
The new offensive by federal safety regulators comes in the wake of a tragic accident last month in which a tour bus transporting a college women’s lacrosse team went off the side of the road killing two occupants and causing severe injuries to other passengers. While the preliminary indication from Jennifer Kocher of the PA state’s Public Utility Commission indicated that the tour bus company was current on inspections and did not have a record of violations or accidents, this has been the exception rather than the rule with recent tour bus crashes.
Our condolences go out to the families of the victims who died, along with our hopes that the steps being undertaken by the federal government will curb the recent spike in busing accidents involving tour companies with poor safety records. According to AP reports, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be carefully scrutinizing tour bus companies with a record of safety violations, stops by police or traffic accidents. The regulators will also conduct actual physical inspections of the buses as opposed to their customary practice of simply relying on the company’s maintenance records.
The AP report also indicates that FMCSA investigators will be analyzing state records of buses pulled off the road by law enforcement officials to identify rogue bus companies with poor safety records trying to avoid detection. Federal safety officials refer to these types of bus companies as “chameleon” or “reincarnated” bus companies. Carriers with poor safety records that have been shut down by federal regulators often transfer their buses to an affiliated bus operator using another name.
These rogue bus companies will go to great lengths to avoid detection, which include minimizing any identifying signage on the buses so that they can easily be repainted and used with another affiliate. The practice is so common that these disguised buses are referred to as “ghost buses.” FMCSA regulators indicated that they will be analyzing the federal agency’s database to detect companies using multiple names but sharing addresses and ownership.
The inspection comes in the wake of two recent fatal tour bus accidents that occurred since the first of the year involving carriers that were ordered to shut down operations because of safety concerns. In one of the collisions, a tour bus crashed into a pickup truck in Southern California killing eight people and causing significant injuries to dozens of other passengers. In the other incident, a bus crashed in northeastern Oregon killing nine and causing injury to 38 more.
Both of these fatal collisions raised serious safety issues. A post-crash investigation involving the California collision revealed that the bus company had failed to have its vehicles regularly inspected and that the two other buses owned by the carrier had serious mechanical issues constituting safety violations. The bus driver in the Oregon crash had been behind the wheel 22 hours more than the maximum allowable under federal law for a consecutive eight-day period at the time of his fatal collision.
While these stepped up enforcement activities are a welcome step in the right direction, the FMCSA has 400 inspectors responsible for supervising more than 525,000 motor carriers. Bus accidents will continue unless carriers and drivers commit to complying with federal regulations and safety standards. If you or someone you love has been injured in a Georgia tour bus collision, our experienced bus accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are committed to protecting your rights, getting you the full compensation you deserve, and holding rogue bus companies responsible for injuries and loss of life caused by their negligence.
Our experienced Georgia bus accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.