By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will step up its investigations of bus carriers suspected of skirting federal safety regulations after an uptick in fatal motorcoach wrecks.
On Thursday, FMCSA announced it had unleashed specially trained teams of investigators and auditors to find and shut down motorcoach companies that appear to be “high-risk carriers” during a two-month national sweep.
“Our fundamental goal is to ensure the safety of passengers on our roadways and save lives,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, according to an FMCSA news release. “We’ve seen the tragic consequences when motorcoach companies cut corners and do not make safety a top priority. With this goal at the top of our priorities, we can continue to raise the safety bar for the entire industry.”
The agency said it is also urging state and local police to join suit and step up their own enforcement of traffic laws against motorcoach drivers suspected of “speeding, following too closely, texting, using a handheld cell phone, impaired driving and unsafe lane changing.”
FMCSA said the 4,000 motorcoach companies operating in the U.S. provide 700 million passenger trips annually. The industry’s unique operating schedules, equipment storage and driver qualifications provide challenges that law enforcement doesn’t see in other industries regulated by FMCSA.
Many bus drivers, for instance, work part-time for multiple motorcoach companies.
“Motorcoach safety is at the center of this agency’s radar,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said in the release. “While motorcoach travel is among the safest forms of roadway transportation today, it can and must be safer. The traveling public deserves no less.”
FMCSA cited fatal wrecks in early February in San Bernardino, CA and in January in eastern Oregon as the agency asked industry, safety and enforcement organizations to support efforts to “transform the safety culture throughout the motorcoach industry.”
The agency also announced it is making its SaferBus mobile app available on Google Play. The application, which allows the public to see safety information for each motorcoach company, was previously available only for users of Apple devices.
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