Police across the county are joining federal authorities in a nationwide effort to root out bus companies with a history of accidents and safety violations. The crackdown comes in response to two deadly tour bus crashes in recent weeks, one in Oregon that killed nine people and injured dozens more, and a more recent crash in Southern California that killed eight and injured about 40 others.
Although investigations are still ongoing in both the Oregon and California crashes, preliminary reports indicate regulatory violations and chronic maintenance issues likely played a role.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that during the next two months, inspectors will focus on bus companies with a history of traffic accidents or those that have had buses pulled off the road by inspectors for safety violations. Safety inspectors will also visit bus companies to physically inspect the vehicles rather than depend on the company’s safety maintenance records, which has been the customary practice.
FMCSA officials will also target companies that have reopened under a new name after being shut down by safety regulators, a common practice among bus companies with a history of poor regulatory compliance. According to the Associated Press, “reincarnated” or “chameleon” bus companies, as they are known in the regulatory world, usually maintain a fleet of white “ghost” buses with minimal signage or identifying information, making them quick and easy to repaint.
Federal regulators will cross-check data to pinpoint bus companies with shared ownership and/or addresses, often a sign that a shuttered bus company has changed names.
Transportation Department authorities met with bus industry and safety officials last week to discuss other ways to find unsafe bus operators and keep them off the roads.
“We’ve seen the tragic consequences when motor-coach companies cut corners and do not make safety a top priority,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
Eight people were killed and several others severely injured when a chartered bus crash into other vehicles on a California mountain highway and flipped February 3. The owner of the bus, Scapadas Magicas, LLC has a history of brake problems and other maintenance issues, according to FMCSA data. The driver of the bus told authorities that the bus’s brakes failed to work, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. His story has been confirmed by others in the bus, who said the driver screamed that there were no brakes and to call 911.
On December 30, a tour bus operated by Mi Joo Tour & Travel of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, crashed through a guardrail on Interstate 84 in Oregon, causing the vehicle to roll several hundred feet down an embankment. The crash killed nine people and injured nearly 30 others. U.S. officials investigating that crash found the company had a long history of regulatory noncompliance and banned it from operating in the U.S.