(New York, NY - WNYC) Federal legislators and regulators talked tough today at a Congressional hearing on strengthening bus safety. Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, took the occasion to make a pitch for greater power to crack down on the fast-expanding long distance bus industry. But first, she delivered some chilling stats related to the recent spate of bus crashes.
"This year has been the worst period in recent history for motorcoach safety with six crashes resulting in 25 deaths and numerous injuries," she said.
Her statement came after a weekend during which her agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, declared three bus companies "imminent safety hazards" and shut them down.
One of those companies, Haines Tour in Michigan, was caught carrying passengers in cargo holds at the bottom of their buses. Another, United Tours in North Carolina, was using unqualified drivers.
New enforcement measures proposed by Ferro at the hearing included inspecting every long distance bus at least once a year, doing surprise safety stops while buses are en route and raising the fee for a company to obtain an operating license from DOT. Right now it's 300 hundred dollars -- 50 dollars less than it costs a street vendor to sell hot dogs in Washington, DC. Ferro said she'd also like to see the fine for a bus safety violation raised from $2,000 to $25,000.
Representatives from the long distance bus companies who participated in the hearing gave their wary consent to the proposals. "I can support it if it's reasonable," said Mr. Victor S. Parra, president of the trade group United Motorcoach Association. "You have to remember that these companies create jobs and are good for the economy. You don't want to over-regulate them."