Grisly bus crashes with multiple injuries and fatalities, commercial drivers with poor driving records and criminal histories, and crackdowns that have sidelined hundreds of buses and removed dozens of bus drivers from service: all of these recent events can make the thought of bus travel unsettling to prospective passengers, but there are tools and specific things to keep in mind that can significantly improve the chances of having a safe and trouble-free journey.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there is more than just price and convenience to consider when planning a voyage by bus. Some motor coach companies have poor safety records. Many may even be operating illegally. Many more have outstanding safety records, and safety should be the top priority in selecting a motor carrier, the FMCSA says.
Always choose a bus company that complies with federal (FMCSA) rules. The following checklist was created by the FMCSA to help prospective passengers separate the good carriers from the bad ones:
- Safety Performance History: Check the bus company’s safety performance scores. Consider how they compare to the national averages.
- Safety Rating: FMCSA rates bus companies for safety performance. The top rating is satisfactory. Bus companies with a conditional safety rating may pose a higher risk, and companies with a final unsatisfactory safety rating should not be operating.
- Operating Authority and Insurance Requirements: Bus companies charging a fee to provide interstate transportation must obtain operating authority from the FMCSA. If the company operates a bus that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, it must have a minimum of $5 million in insurance coverage.
To facilitate checking passenger bus safety information and ratings, the FMCSA offers an easy-to-use online application at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/PCS/Consumers.aspx. Prospective passengers and trip planners first select which type of vehicle they plan to use (motorcoach, mini-bus, school bus, limo, or passenger van), then enter an appropriate zip code or place name to search for carriers and see their safety ratings, or they can enter the name of a specific carrier to view its safety info.
According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 34 motor coach crashes nationwide resulted in 46 deaths and injuries to 363 people last year. That figure does not include school buses, limousines, and other forms of commercial passenger transportation.