New Federal Regulations Aimed to Make Buses Safer
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced new measures to help ensure the safety of passengers traveling by bus lines in our country. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has indicated that new measures and requirements are being put in place to help ensure the safety of passengers and to monitor carriers and drivers to make sure that they are complying with federal regulations.
"The public deserves to know that when they board any type of bus or commercial vehicle, they will be delivered to their destination safely," said LaHood.
Some of the new measures include:
- The U.S. DOT will now require more rigorous commercial driver's license (CDL) testing standards.
- New rules will be put in place to strengthen carrier and driver compliance with federal safety regulations.
- Consumers will be able to view the safety records of bus lines before booking a trip with them.
- FMCSA, with the help of local law enforcement agencies, will conduct surprise motorcoach inspections at popular travel destination spots during peak travel times.
Other requirements being put in place are:
- The FMCSA is now going to require anyone applying for a CDL to obtain a commercial driver's learner's permit (CLP) first.
- All state licensing agencies must use a CDL testing system that meets the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators CDL knowledge and skill standards.
- The agencies must prohibit the use of foreign language interpreters to reduce the potential for testing fraud.
- There will be federal standards in place to help determine whether new carriers coming into business are not just old "unsafe" carriers trying to operate under a new business name.
- The U.S. DOT proposes that new motorcoach companies get a full safety audit before receiving U.S. DOT operating authority.
- Current law will be revised to ensure a driver's CDL can be suspended or revoked for drug and alcohol-related offenses committed in any vehicle outside of work.
- If passenger carriers attempt to operate without US DOT authority, the penalties will be raised from $2000 a day to $2500 a day.
Consumers Gain Control
Consumers can now take safety into their own hands with the use of a website and system set up by FMCSA. The new Passenger Bus Safety website: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx can be accessed by consumers who are planning a trip on a motorcoach carrier. There they can find a pre-trip safety checklist that provides consumers with information on a bus company's safety record, safety rating and US DOT operating authority. By reviewing this information first, consumers are now able to make informed decisions about whether or not they want to buy a ticket and travel with that carrier.
The FMCSA is also encouraging bus passengers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to them through their hotline listed on the website. By providing consumers with this kind of information, this will help keep passengers safer and also help federal regulators to police the carriers responsible for their safety.
The FMCSA has not been taking a backseat when it comes to holding these carriers to federal standards. Comprehensive safety reviews and inspections of the nation's almost 4,000 passenger bus companies has almost doubled over the past five years. The inspections numbered about 12,000 in 2005 but rose to 25,000 inspections in 2010. Compliance reviews also increased from almost 500 in 2005 to over 1,000 in 2010.
Although the FMCSA seems to be doing its job, sometimes new policies, procedures and regulations can take time to implement and enforce. In the meantime, bus accidents continue to occur around our country. Just this past week here in Georgia, a MARTA bus carrying 13 passengers in Atlanta was hit head on by a passenger vehicle traveling in the wrong lane. While in this particular case the MARTA bus driver was not at fault, the accident still raises questions about how to make bus passengers safer. Most of the passengers in the MARTA crash were injured, including a three-year-old girl. Safety recommendations for buses, such as safer windows, stronger roofs, seat belts and better driving instruction and training have been pushed for about a decade now. It is now time for bus safety to be taken seriously to ensure the safety of all passengers who ride.
If you have been seriously injured or a family member has been killed in a bus accident, you should obtain the legal advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. At Montlick and Associates, with over 36 years of experience, we are here to help. Our Georgia bus accident attorneys are available to assist 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 we 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.