Government officials released today the results from a six-month study on curbside motorcoach safety that highlight key issues related to this fast-growing segment of the transportation industry. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez held a press conference in New York about the report.
The study is the first comprehensive evaluation of the motorcoach industry, with an emphasis on what are commonly known as curbside carriers. Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Velázquez requested to conduct a study following a March 12 bus crash in the Bronx, New York, that killed 15 and injured 18 more.
Since then, the NTSB has initiated investigations into two curbside bus crashes and has been assessing safety issues in three others. These five accidents resulted in 22 fatalities and 159 injuries.
The study analyzed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s data and conducted field work, which included interviews, focus groups and observations of compliance reviews and inspections. Some of the key study findings include:
- In general, motorcoach travel is safe. However, curbside carriers with ten or fewer buses AND carriers who have been in business for ten years or less, have higher accident rates and higher roadside inspection violation rates.
- The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was 7 times that of conventional bus operations: 1.4 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for curbside carriers compared with 0.2 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for conventional scheduled carriers.
- The FMCSA is overburdened. For example, 878 FMCSA and state personnel are responsible for compliance reviews for more than 765,000 U.S. motor carriers, a ratio of 1.15 investigators per 1,000 motor carriers.
- Bus driver fatigue, a contributing factor in many accidents, is a continuing safety concern.
“It’s abundantly clear that the oversight of this industry has not kept pace with its growth and the consequences have been deadly” said Schumer. “The NTSB report is a wake-up call that we need a more rigorous regulatory regime, and it provides a blueprint for how to fill the gaps.”
Curbside motorcoach operations consist of scheduled trips that begin or end at locations other than traditional bus terminals. Most of these operations pick up or discharge passengers at one or more curbside locations.