Schumer Calls for Improved System for Bus Company Safety Ratings

June 20, 2011 Updated Jun 20, 2011 at 11:38 AM EDT

By WKBW News

...

Schumer Calls for Improved System for Bus Company Safety Ratings

June 20, 2011 Updated Jun 20, 2011 at 11:38 AM EDT

Washington D.C. (WKBW release) -- United States Senator Charles E. Schumer on Sunday called on the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a more clear rating system for the discount tour bus industry to provide greater disclosure of safety ratings to passengers before they purchase tickets on intercity carriers, including discount tour buses.

The New York Senator's call comes in the wake of numerous crashes, some of which have proven fatal, involving the discount tour bus industry.

The most recent bus crash in Virginia, operated by Sky Express Bus, resulted in four deaths. It was revealed after the crash that the company had 46 violations for fatigued driving and was involved in four previous crashes, one of which resulted in a fatality.

While safety records for operators of motorcoaches can be researched online through the FMCSA website, the information is not easily accessible for passengers who seek to purchase tickets.

Schumer’s proposal would have USDOT and FMCSA develop a rating system, similar to the one used for restaurants in New York City, that would indicate the overall safety record of each bus company at the point of ticket purchase. Schumer pointed out that such a system would allow passengers to make more informed decisions and motivate the industry to improve their safety standards.

“If bus companies have a poor safety record, passengers should know about it before they purchase a ticket,” said Schumer. “It seems like every week we hear of another crash involving the discount tour bus industry. It is crucial that passengers are clearly and unambiguously alerted to a company’s safety record before they ever board a bus.”

Numerous deadly crashes in the last few months have raised serious questions about safety oversight of the tour bus industry. The Sky Express Bus crash in Virgina came on the heels of several other crashes, including one in New Jersey that killed two and one in the Bronx in March which left 15 dead and scores of other injured. Many of these companies had long track records of accidents and violations.

Despite the poor safety records of some bad actors in the discount tour bus industry, it is very difficult for passengers to get an accurate picture of safety records of these companies. Though the FMCSA currently has a ranking system on its website, the database is difficult to navigate and the rating system is not easy to understand.

Schumer said that by providing a clear rating, passengers would be better informed about the safety of the buses before they purchase tickets and would be able to make a more informed decision as to which carrier to use. The system would also reward companies with strong safety records and serve as an incentive for companies to improve their safety records.