Schumer Wants Tougher Bus Driver License Standards

March 21, 2011 Updated Mar 21, 2011 at 7:40 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

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Schumer Wants Tougher Bus Driver License Standards

March 21, 2011 Updated Mar 21, 2011 at 7:40 PM EDT

( release) United States Senator Charles E. Schumer Sunday called on the New York Departments of Motor Vehicles to conduct an audit of licenses issued to drivers of low-cost tour buses in light of emerging evidence that the driver of Saturday’s deadly crash on I-95 may have provided false statements and documents in order to continue operating as a driver. According to reports, the driver of the World Wide Tour bus had received several driving violations on his record but was able to maintain his commercial license and allegedly used a false name at one point to protect his commercial license.

“Last Saturday’s accident could very well be just the tip of the iceberg. As more and more questions are raised as to how this individual obtained and maintained a commercial driving license, it’s vital to the safety of New Yorkers and those who ride these buses that we know drivers have safe driving records and valid licenses. There is a real worry that some of these low-cost companies are cutting corners on safety and a thorough review of all the drivers of firms operating in this market can answer the questions that must be answered,” said Schumer. “I am calling on New York State’s Departments of Motor Vehicle to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the driving credentials of the drivers of these low-cost tour buses to ensure that only those eligible to hold commercial driving licenses are behind the wheel.”

There are well over one hundred tour bus companies registered with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) operating in New York that transport tens of thousands of travelers a month. Schumer noted that, in New York alone, the New York City Department of City Planning estimates that curbside bus travel in the Chinatown-area of Manhattan produces more than 2,000 arrival and departures per week. Experts have noted that in 2010 there had been significant growth in the industry, almost all of which comes from curbside discount services.

Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a state inspector general review of how the driver of the World Wide Tour bus that crashed last week was able to obtain a commercial drivers license in New York State. Subsequently, the driver of the bus has had his license suspended after it was determined that his application for a license contained false information. According to the Associated Press, the driver of the bus was not permitted to drive because of a previous license suspension and several traffic violations. It has been reported that the driver received violations for speeding in 1995 and for driving without a license on two separate occasions. He was also charged with giving an alias to police.

Schumer applauded the governor’s efforts to investigate and determine what exactly went wrong in this particular case. Schumer believes that while the investigation unfolds, it’s vital to the safety of New Yorkers that we ensure that all drivers across the whole low-cost bus industry have valid licenses and safe driving records. Only a full review by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles can make that happen.

Earlier this week, Schumer requested that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) begin a top-to-bottom review of the Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration’s safety regime for the industry. He also joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in co-sponsoring the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act to strengthen bus safety and improve driver training to reduce the number of bus crashes and related fatalities.

“Only a complete vetting of the licenses and driving records of drivers operating these low-cost carriers will prevent people who have no business behind the wheel of a vehicle that carries dozens of passengers from getting there,” said Schumer.

A copy of Schumer’s letter can be found below.

Barbara Fiala

Commissioner

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

6 Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12228

Dear Ms. Fiala:

I write to express concern regarding licensing of motorcoach drivers following the tragic accident that took the life of 15 New Yorkers earlier this week. In light of this accident, I urge you to immediately reexamine licenses issues to motorcoach drivers in New York to ensure that individuals holding these licenses meet the necessary requirements.

As you know, a tragic bus accident in the early morning hours of March 12th claimed the lives of 15 people and injured many others. Although the causes of this accident are still being investigated, recent reports raise questions as to whether or not the driver of the bus should have been allowed to hold a commercial drivers’ license. This concerning revelation should prompt an immediate audit of CDLs issued in New York to determine if those holding the licenses are eligible to have them. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are well over 100 operators of passenger buses registered in New York State. While many drivers working in New York are eligible to be licensed and have safe driving records, the growth of low-cost curbside carriers and the deadly consequences of Saturday’s crash on Interstate 95 demand we do a better job of ensuring that only drivers who are eligible to be behind the wheel are. Only by doing so can we ensure that individuals driving motorcoaches in and around New York meet the basic requirements to do so.

Thank you for your attention to this request. If you have question, please contact my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.

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