Growing bus use raises safety issues
WASHINGTON — As the number of bus passengers approaches the number of American airline passengers, transportation experts are taking a closer look at the widely disparate state efforts to make sure buses are safe.
States are responsible for enforcing federal safety laws for buses that cross state lines, but they take very different approaches. Nearly half of the states require annual inspections. The rest do not.
Some spend almost all of at least $165 million in federal inspection money to look at trucks, while others focus more heavily on buses. Others are more aggressive at conducting roadside inspections.
States have different rules for buses that do not fall under federal jurisdiction because they operate only within the state.
Industry leaders and safety advocates want more consistent enforcement among states and within states, although they differ on the tactics. Congress has asked the federal Department of Transportation to study whether more uniform state laws are needed.
The discussion over state enforcement methods occurs as federal regulatory efforts are under scrutiny. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in particular, was under fire when 28 people died in motor coach accidents in 2011.
Since, federal regulators have stepped up inspections, tried to better identify rogue operators and started requiring seat belts on new buses.
The scrutiny occurs as industry studies show American buses provide more than 700 million passenger trips a year, compared with 720 million on airlines.
Federal regulators targeted companies last year that they deemed to pose significant risks. As part of that eight-month effort, they shut down 52 bus companies and removed 340 buses from the road.
The number of people who die in bus accidents has remained steady in recent years at about 20 a year. But when crashes occur, they can be devastating because of the number of passengers on board.
Indiana state Sen. Tom Wyss was surprised what he learned about his state's bus safety laws after a church bus crash in Indianapolis last summer left a youth pastor, his pregnant wife and a chaperone dead.
Wyss discovered bus owners in Indiana do not have to show the state that their vehicles were inspected in the past year.
He was particularly worried about buses owned by churches, Scouting groups and other nonprofits, which receive less scrutiny under federal regulations than commercial buses.
“When you get on a Greyhound or some other bus, you know that puppy has been inspected. But what about this one here? It turns out ... we don't check buses that are private buses,” he said.
So Wyss pushed a bill through the Senate requiring bus owners to show state police proof of inspection when they get their license plates renewed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama wants to end U.S. companies skirting tax laws by merging with overseas entities
- After 40 years, Wyo. fossil trove to get another look
- Annapolis Marine capain could be 1st to perform as part of Blue Angels team
- Psychiatrist returns fire in hospital shooting; caseworker killed in gunplay
- House panel votes to sue Obama over health law implementation
- Tornado slams Virginia campground, killing 2
- Russia firing into Ukraine, U.S. intel finds
- U.N. school in Gaza shelled; 15 Palestinian civilians killed, many children wounded
- Payday lenders, online gambling outlets unfairly targeted in probe, GOP lawmakers say
- Hamas fighters slip into Israel, kill soldiers
- Tsarnaev’s friend convicted in Boston Marathon bombing