Fifteen people were injured Monday night when a tour bus traveling from California to Washington state crashed into the back of a truck on a state highway in Tulare, Calif., about 170 miles north of Los Angeles. The operator of the bus has a known history of safety problems, but was allowed to continue operating, Southern California’s NBC4 News reported.
Thirty-six people were aboard the bus, operated by the carrier “Fronteras del Norte,” which carries passengers more than a million miles per year up and down the west coast. Fourteen passengers and the 60-year-old bus driver were hospitalized with injuries, none of which are considered life-threatening.
California Highway Patrol officer Scott Jobinger told NBC4 that the driver drove the bus into the back a big rig on State Route 99. He said the driver was not cited, but added that “that could change.”
The bus driver told authorities that fog was to blame for the crash. The National Weather Service reported there was no fog in the area when the crash occurred, according to NBC4.
In November, NBC4 reported that several commercial bus companies remained in operation despite having a history of poor safety with the Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the passenger bus industry. One of those carriers operating with a poor safety record, an NBC4 I-Team investigation found, was Fronteras del Norte.
According to NBC, that investigation “found drivers using handheld cellphones while speeding.”
“Federal inspectors did a thorough review of the company, and gave it some bad marks, but allowed it to keep operating,” NBC reported. “The FMCSA gives Fronteras one of its worst ratings for maintenance of its buses, putting it on ‘alert’ status,” NBC4 reported.
In November, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates fatal highway crashes, sharply criticized the FMCSA for its failure to keep dangerous bus carriers off of the road. The NTSB’s criticism came the same day it announced the cause of California’s deadliest 2013 bus crash involving a tour bus driving mountainous roads near Big Bear, Calif., with faulty brakes. The driver lost control of that bus and crashed into other vehicles, killing seven passengers and the driver of a pickup truck.
NBC 4 Southern California: