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Bus safety oversight does not keep up with industry

Most of us in Michigan are familiar with the major cross country bus carriers, but lately you may have noticed that there are a growing number of low cost bus services that advertise exceptionally low rates. These companies generally do not have bus stations, but rather pick up passengers curbside at a designated intersection or in a parking lot of another business. Often ticketing is a completely online process.

A new study by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovered that these newer, upstart bus companies are significantly more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Bus companies that had been in existence for less than ten years and had fewer than ten busses were significantly more likely to be in involved in an accident.

Reviewing crash data beginning in 2005 and going through March of this year, these newer curbside bus services were involved in seven times more fatal accidents than the more established carriers.

The NTSB noted that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is charged with overseeing bus companies, has only one inspector per every 1,000 bus companies. Some legislators feel that the oversight of these motor carriers is simply not keeping up with the rapid growth of the industry.

Motor coach operators have a duty to properly train their drivers and maintain their vehicle to reduce the risk of injury to their passengers. They must also follow federal regulations as well as Michigan regulations and traffic laws.

It seems that in the current situation of many new companies starting up, the problem is not one of a lack of regulation, but rather that the agencies tasked to enforce these regulations simply lack the resources to ensure that all the bus companies are following the rules intended to keep the public safe.

Source: USA Today "Low-fare buses crash more often, NTSB study finds," Ken Valenti, Nov. 1, 2011

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