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FMCSA to reevaluate bus safety in wake of deadly bus accidents

Written by Steve Gursten Posted March 21st, 2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration promises sweeping safety reforms and a crackdown on unsafe commercial bus operations after recent serious motor coach crashes

California tour bus crash

Recently, there have been several tragic motor coach accidents, like this one in California. You may also remember this crash in Oregon. In the Oregon crash, the driver had exceeded the legal driving limit set by the Federal guidelines and was speeding.

Both of these tragic bus accidents caused fatal injuries.  And both of these tragic bus accidents were also completely preventable.

And completely preventable crashes  are inexcusable.

Apparently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) agrees that something more needs to be done.

The FMCSA has announced it plans to crack down on bus safety. It has launched a campaign against unsafe bus operations, in which officers and auditors will investigate high risk motor coach companies.

The FMCSA plans to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to investigate driver qualifications, equipment, scheduling and other safety concerns of high-risk carriers.  The extent of the involvement of local law enforcement is not entirely clear yet, but at the very minimum, The FMCSA has asked police to step up enforcement of traffic laws against bus and motor coach drivers who are caught doing the following:

  • Speeding,
  • Following too closely,
  • Texting,
  • Using a handheld cell phone,
  • Driving under the influence,
  • Or committing other unsafe practices.

Ann Ferro, an FMCSA Administrator weighed in the new move. Ferro elaborated on the decision, stating that a special inspections and audit team will undergo specialized training to investigate “key areas of operations” at high risk motor coach bus companies.

These key areas are unique to the motor coach industry, and will include operating schedules, equipment storage, and driver qualifications, among other safety concerns.  The examination of driver qualification will also include evaluating the impact of part-time drivers who may work for more multiple bus operators.

How you can prepare for a safe motor coach ride

In addition to enlisting law enforcement, the FMCSA has also called on the general public to do its part.

The Administration has urged the public to thoroughly research bus companies before buying a ticket.

Passengers can research bus companies by using the SaferBus app.  The app is free, and allows users to review the safety records of a given bus company.

If bus companies want to cut corners on safety, then the market can punish them accordingly by using safer services.

A broad based, sweeping change, like this is welcome.  There is no reason why motor coaches and buses should be crashing because drivers were going too fast, or because drivers exceeded the legal driving hours limit.  We need to get these dangerous drivers off the road and put these dangerous companies out of business.  This new initiative is a great start.

The first stage of a national safety reform will be implemented over the course of the next two months by FMCSA safety personnel.

For more information on how lawyers can better litigate bus accident cases, including extensive discovery information tailored to motor coach bus litigation, consult Joe Fried’s Understanding Motor Carrier Claims and Michael Leizerman’s Litigating Truck Accident Cases.

Understanding Motor Carrier Claims and Litigating Truck Accident Cases

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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