The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been receiving numerous inquiries regarding third-party inspectors offering “safety certifications” to commercial motorcoach companies, prompting the agency to issue a warning to the bus companies and passengers alike that such certifications aren’t approved by federal regulators.
“Companies using aggressive marketing tactics to sell ‘inspections’ and ‘authorized lists’ are not sanctioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration nor do they have access to the wide range of resources routinely implemented by trained and authorized inspectors to determine a passenger motor carrier’s safety fitness,” according to a statement released by the agency.
Bus companies are subject to a wide range of regulatory interventions, including compliance reviews, safety audits, and vehicle and driver inspections, which are conducted by appropriate state and federal authorities. The FMCSA is the only entity with the authority to authorize, regulate, and terminate an interstate bus company’s operations.
The announcement comes at a time of heightened concern for the safety of some passenger bus companies, especially “bargain” carriers that operate at steep discounts and cater to low-income workers.
In November, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report warning that low-cost bus operators that pick passengers up from street curbs are seven times more likely to become involved in a fatal crash than buses operated by traditional motor coach companies whose buses depart and arrive at a central terminal.
The report was mainly prompted by a horrific Bronx bus crash that killed 15 people and injured 18 in March 2011 after the driver, a former felon whose commercial license had been revoked, allegedly fell asleep at the wheel. Two days later, a bus crash on the New Jersey Turnpike killed two people, while another on I-93 in New Hampshire injured 23 passengers a few days later. The spate of bus crashes prompted state and federal authorities to conduct sweeping crackdowns of passenger buses, which led to the ticketing and arrests of dozens of bus drivers.
The FMCSA advises people or groups considering motorcoach transportation to the safety ratings of the mototcarriers they are interested in using at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx