Tragic accident ... tour bus regulation (concl.)

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Mar 25, 2011 in Car Accidents

When 15 people died in a tour bus crash, lawmakers and safety advocates started to ask questions. The accident occurred miles from Charleston, but the call for more stringent safety measures was heard everywhere. The tour bus industry is growing fast, putting more people at risk every day. Federal regulations aren't really in line with that growth.

A driver obtains a license from the state. The federal government really has no say in who's hired. The only real requirement is that drivers maintain a log of each 24-hour period. They report time off, time driving and time on-duty but not driving. The records are hand-written.

Officials, most frequently from the state, monitor compliance through random roadside inspections and checkups at typical tour bus destinations (casinos, amusement parks and so on). The bus company in this case had several logbook violations on record. Investigators are looking into the driver's logbook now.

But critics refer to the logbooks as "comic books." The records are often falsified, if they are completed at all. The checkups cannot determine if the logs are truthful, and that's a big problem for safety advocates.

Lawmakers have suggested that buses go electronic, installing systems that record information to back up or to refute logbooks, and to monitor violations of fatigue rules. The Senate failed to pass a bill that would require buses to have these electronic systems and safety mechanisms like passenger seat belts.

A similar bill could do better this session, especially if the accident investigation turns up violations of current rules or common sense safety measures.


New York Times, "Bus overturns on Bronx highway, killing 14," Robert D. McFadden, 03/blog/11

New York Times, "Lax Rules for Discount Buses Cited After I-95 Crash," By Michael M. Grynbaum and Patrick Mcgeehan, 03/14/11

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