Grisly bus crashes with multiple injuries and fatalities, commercial drivers with poor driving records and criminal histories, 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. The good news is there are some tips and tools available that will improve your chances of having a safe and trouble-free journey by bus.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, passengers should consider more than price and convenience alone when planning a trip by bus. Safety should be the top priority in selecting a motor carrier. While most commercial motor coach companies have excellent safety records, many have serious and repeat safety violations, and some may even be operating illegally. To help prospective bus passengers sort the safe carriers from the ones with poor records, the FMCSA developed the following checklist.
- 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.