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

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Mar 23, 2011 in Car Accidents

We're continuing our discussion of the discount tour bus accident earlier this month that claimed 15 lives and left others with serious injuries. That and another accident have brought to light the lax regulations governing tour buses. The accident didn't occur here, but the horrifying details resonated with people in Charleston. Anyone familiar with the crash will shudder every time a tour bus passes them on our West Virginia roadways.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the regulatory body responsible for the expanding tour-bus industry. The agency is charged with maintaining basic safety rules for carriers as well as ensuring compliance with those rules. After the fatal accident , lawmakers began to ask if those rules fell were in fact ineffective at ensuring the safety of tour bus passengers.

First, the FMCSA has promulgated no special requirements for tour bus drivers. The only thing a person needs to be a driver is a commercial driver's license, which is issued by the state, not the federal government. The rules require no additional training, no background check -- nothing that says they are uniquely qualified for the job. The upshot is that bus companies have almost complete freedom to hire just about anyone.

Tour bus drivers, like tractor trailer drivers, cannot spend hours on end behind the wheel. The rules limit bus drivers to 10 hours of driving during a 15-hour work day. The rule is fine. What raises eyebrows is the standard method of tracking that driving time. Drivers keep a hand-written log that accounts for his or her full 24-hour day. The driver notes things like total miles driving and times that the driver is off-duty or on-duty but not driving.

In our next post, we'll discuss enforcement of these regulations.


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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Stewart Bell, PLLC

30 Capitol St
Charleston, WV 25301

Phone: 1 304-345-1700

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