Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
U.S. DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and State Law Enforcement Agencies Conduct Thousands of Surprise Passenger Carrier Safety Inspections Nationwide; Strike Force Inspections Remove 289 Unsafe Passenger Buses and Drivers
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its state and local law enforcement partners across the nation recently conducted 2,782 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections over a nine-day period that resulted in 289 unsafe buses or drivers being removed from our roadways.
The unannounced inspections took place from March 28 through April 6, 2011, as part of FMCSA’s ongoing efforts to strengthen passenger carrier safety nationwide. The coordinated enforcement strike force issued out-of-service violation citations to 156 drivers and 262 vehicles.
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Previously, from March 12 to March 28, an estimated 3,000 passenger carrier safety inspections were conducted across the country, resulting in nearly 300 passenger carrier vehicles being put out of service during the 17-day timeframe.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Secretary LaHood. “We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to shut down unsafe passenger bus companies that place motorists at risk and remove drivers from our roads who put passengers in harm’s way.”
In addition to the strike force inspections, FMCSA and state safety investigators initiated 95 full safety compliance reviews on commercial passenger bus companies. These reviews determine a passenger carrier’s safety rating.
“Working side-by-side with our state and local law enforcement partners, we can ensure that every passenger bus company and driver operates as safely as possible,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “These strike force activities are one of the many effective tools we use year-round to raise the safety bar for commercial buses and drivers on our nation’s roadways.”
FMCSA has significantly increased the number of safety inspections and compliance reviews the agency conducts on the nation’s estimated 3,700 registered motor coach companies.
The number of roadside safety inspections of motorcoaches has doubled from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010. Compliance reviews on motorcoach companies more than doubled from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010.
Passenger fatalities have decreased from 57 in 2004 to 46 in 2009, a 19 percent reduction.
In 2009, the Obama Administration sought to make long-needed improvements to motorcoach safety through a new Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed rules that will require buses to have seat belts and electronic on-board recorders to replace easily falsified paper records of driver hours and determine how best to strengthen driver heath requirements and enforcement programs.
Last year, DOT also sought to curb distracted driving incidents by adopting a regulation banning commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel and initiating a rulemaking to ban hand-held mobile phone use.
FMCSA encourages travelers considering passenger bus transportation to visit the agency's website and review the company’s safety records at http://www.ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/Passenger/home.asp.
A member of the traveling public who suspects an unsafe commercial driver or carrier should always call their local 911 system first. The public can also report an unsafe driver or carrier at: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.