Federal transportation authorities banned 52 bus companies from operating on U.S. roads in December due to safety concerns as part of an eight-month crackdown dubbed “Operation Quick Strike.” The intensified crackdown also pulled 340 unsafe commercial buses from the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said.
The national crackdown on unsafe buses was spurred by the proliferation of low-cost passenger bus lines and a series of crashes that have killed and injured dozens in recent months. The FMCSA publicized the results of the crackdown just days after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized the agency for failing to keep unsafe buses off of the roads.
That challenge has proved to be a daunting one for federal transportation regulators tasked with policing all passenger and cargo carriers that travel across state lines. Budget shortfalls and insufficient staff have made it easier for some unsafe bus companies and drivers to operate under the radar. Bus companies and drivers pulled off the road often change names or falsify licenses to stay in business.
To meet the demand for tighter oversight of the bus industry and raise the bar for safety, the FMCSA established a three-phase Motorcoach Safety Initiative. Part of that initiative involved specially training and dispatching more than 50 investigators throughout the country to conduct thorough reviews of the 250 most at-risk bus operators, identified by data and safety scores based on roadside inspections and violations records.
“Bus travel is increasingly popular because it is a convenient, inexpensive option for students, groups and families. But it must also be safe,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Through Operation Quick Strike and our regular enforcement efforts, we’re shutting down companies that put passengers at risk and educating the public on safe motorcoach travel.”
According to the FMCSA, some of the reasons bus companies were shut down included failure to adequately maintain buses, failure to sufficiently test drivers for drugs and alcohol, and chronic practice of ignoring hours-of-service rules designed to prevent fatigued driving, one of the leading causes of bus crashes.
The agency also assessed the safety levels of more than 1,300 carriers that had a minimal inspection history or lack of data with the agency. More than 240 of those companies have been targeted for follow-up investigations.