New York authorities continue to step up their enforcement of safety regulations on tour buses following last week’s fatal crash of a commercial bus that killed 15 people and left many others injured. The crash and the subsequent discovery that the driver, 40-year-old Ophadell Williams, used aliases on two separate occasions to avoid losing his commercial driver’s license, turned regulators’ attention to commercial bus safety in New York and throughout the country.
New York authorities began setting up checkpoints on roads throughout the state last weekend. Safety violations were rampant in the Manhattan area, where 16 out of 26 buses were put out of service for vehicle or driver violations or both. Outside of the city, the violations were relatively lower but still unacceptably high, with nearly 20 percent of buses being taken out of service.
The major violation inspectors found involved the log books that drivers must by law keep to record their periods of driving and rest. While regulators take hours-of-service (HOS) rules seriously, many bus drivers enter false information in the record books and some fail to keep the required logs at all. New York authorities said the logbook Mr. Williams kept appeared to be incomplete. Problems with the driver’s commercial license or medical history are some of the other violations for which regulators pulled drivers from the road.
Safety violations found with the buses themselves mostly included maintenance issues, such as problems with lights, emergency exits, suspension, tires, and windshield wipers. Mechanical issues like these may seem minor, but have the potential to be extremely deadly on a bus full of people.
“As proven by these enhanced checkpoints, some of these drivers had no business being behind the wheel and some of these buses had no business being on the road,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “This is a warning to everyone involved to abide by the law.”
Federal law requires every commercial passenger bus to be inspected once every year. New York state laws are tougher, requiring buses to be checked out twice per year. Approximately 71,000 buses are registered in New York.
Two state officials familiar with the state investigation told The Associated Press last week that Williams appeared to have an incomplete log book. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation continues.
In the year’s time preceding the March 12 bus crash, 34 motor coaches crashed nationwide, killing 46 people and injuring 363, according to the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety.