U.S. DOT Conducts Thousands of Surprise Passenger Carrier Safety Inspections to Boost Bus Safety
As Summer Travel Season Begins
Unannounced Inspections Remove 442 Unsafe Buses and Drivers from Nation's Roads
On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its state and local law enforcement partners conducted more than 3,000 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections over a two-week period in May that resulted in 442 unsafe buses or drivers being removed from the nation's roadways.
The strike force issued out-of-service citations to 127 drivers and 315 vehicles during the unannounced inspections that took place from May 1 - 15.
"During this heavy summer travel season, we will remain alert and remove from our roads any passenger bus or driver that places motorists at risk," said Secretary LaHood.
In addition to the strike force inspections, FMCSA and state safety investigators initiated 38 full safety compliance reviews on commercial passenger bus companies. These reviews determine a passenger carrier's safety rating.
"The public deserves safe passenger bus transportation every ride," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "FMCSA and its law enforcement partners will not rest until we weed out every unsafe passenger carrier and driver. Our ongoing strike force inspections are essential to protecting motorists and reaching our goal of zero fatalities involving commercial vehicles."
Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of unannounced bus safety inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation's estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies. Roadside safety inspections of motorcoaches jumped from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, while compliance reviews rose from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010.
On May 5, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Ferro announced several new bus safety measures. Among them, the Department of Transportation will now require more rigorous commercial driver's license testing standards, seek new rules to strengthen passenger carrier and driver compliance with federal safety regulations, and empower consumers to review safety records of bus companies before booking.
A new final rule requires anyone applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) to first obtain a commercial driver's learner's permit, and requires all state licensing agencies to use a standardized CDL testing system. It also prohibits the use of foreign language interpreters to reduce the potential for testing fraud.
The Department of Transportation also unveiled a "Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time" pre-trip safety checklist that helps consumers review a bus company's safety record, safety rating and USDOT operating authority before buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for group travel. The checklist is available online at FMCSA's Passenger Bus Safety Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx . FMCSA encourages consumers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA's consumer complaint Web site: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp .
Other steps the Department has taken to improve passenger safety include a new rule to ban commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel, and a proposed rule to prohibit hand-held mobile phone use. Further, in a wide-ranging Motorcoach Safety Action plan, the Department has proposed rules that will require buses to have seat belts and electronic on-board recorders to replace easily falsified paper records of driver hours. Finally, the Department launched a new safety measurement system titled Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) that provides detailed safety data to identify bus companies for safety interventions.