As we discussed at the time, in November the National Transportation Safety Board furiously dressed down the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for missing or ignoring obvious warning signs before catastrophic accidents. Leaders called for an investigation into whether the FMCSA had allowed commercial trucking and intercity bus companies to continue operating despite numerous safety violations found by roadside spot inspectors. Some of those companies were subsequently involved in serious and fatal accidents.
While the outcome of any investigation is not yet known, the FMCSA has just announced that long-awaited safety regulations have now been finalized. Congress tasked the agency with the new regulations in 2012, but only now are they in place. Among them, however, is one that gives the FMCSA authority to shut down bus and trucking companies after a pattern of major safety problems — even if the latest inspection report falls below the technical threshold for a shutdown.
“We’re pleased that they’re doing this, but it’s about time,” griped the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The advocates and other safety groups have long complained that the FMCSA isn’t aggressive enough about shutting down dangerous operators.
A representative of the nation’s largest intercity bus travel association cautiously supported the change, but hoped the FMCSA’s focus would also shift toward more dangerous operators. He complained that safe companies often pass numerous inspections yet continue under scrutiny. The resources for multiple inspections of compliant operators should be shifted to those with poorer safety and maintenance histories, he said.
In the past year or so, the FMCSA has shuttered around 52 intercity travel bus operators nationwide. Consider, however, that the tour and travel bus industry carries roughly the same number of passengers every year as the airlines do — around 700 million people.
Commercial trucks and buses are legally required and morally obligated to perform proper maintenance and take other measures to prevent accidents. A car accident with one of these huge vehicles will be catastrophic more often than not, and negligent maintenance is responsible far too much of the time. Let’s hope the FMCSA’s new authority can put a stop to it.
Source: Insurance Journal, “New Federal Safety Rules Target Bus, Truck Firms with Repeat Violations,” Joan Lowy, Associated Press, Jan. 22, 2014