With spring just around the corner and tourists making vacation plans, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently revealed its efforts to improve long-distance bus safety.
In updating its Motor Coach Safety Action Plan, the DOT put in place a three-point plan that:
- Targets commercial bus companies that run a high risk of having accidents.
- Adds more bus inspectors.
- Educates bus passengers on how to evaluate a bus company.
Long-distance travel on motor coaches has been increasing each year. According to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, about 750 million passenger trips are taken each year. As the number of trips increase, so do bus crashes. There was an average of 17 bus passenger deaths from 2001 through 2010.
The DOT stepped up its efforts to improve motor coach safety after 28 people died in eight bus crashes in 2011. The total number of fatalities included 15 people who died in a crash on a New York highway, and four people who died when a bus overturned near Doswell, Virginia. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report in August 2012 that found serious driver fatigue and poor management by the bus company contributed to the crash in Virginia.
Beginning in April, DOT will send out specially trained investigators to examine the buses of companies that have the highest risk of crashes.
As part of the plan, DOT will also update the requirements for training safety inspectors and investigators and review all bus companies and safety management controls.
The Action Plan builds upon DOT’s existing strategies and programs. For instance, after DOT’s inspections of bus companies in 2012, 880 bus drivers were fired and 1,831 buses were taken off the roads. Further, DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) closed 26 bus companies that consistently disregarded federal safety rules and regulations.
To help passengers in evaluating bus companies, the FMCSA developed a website titled, “Look Before You Book,” and an easy-to-use app called, “SaferBus.” The website and the app allow bus passengers to check out a motor coach company’s safety record before going on a bus trip.
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