FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 14, 2011

SCHUMER, VELAZQUEZ CALL FOR NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD TO BROADLY INVESTIGATE SAFETY REGS FOR DISCOUNT TOUR BUS INDUSTRY AFTER SATURDAY’S DEADLY BUS CRASH


Schumer, Velazquez Call On NTSB To Examine Safety Regulations for Cheap, Popular Bus Services That Charter More Than 2,000 Trips Per Week

Weekend Crash Latest in Series of Accidents for Industry; In 2007 Similar Tour Bus Crashed and Killed 2 Passengers in New York to Chicago Trip

Schumer, Velazquez: Deadly Crash a Wake-Up Call for Top to Bottom Review of Safety Regime for Industry

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez called on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to broadly investigate safety regulations that govern the discount tour bus industry in light of Saturday morning’s deadly bus crash. While the NTSB is currently investigating the cause of Saturday’s early morning crash in the Bronx, Schumer and Velazquez are asking that the NTSB utilize its oversight authority to examine the overall effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) safety regime for the low-cost tour bus industry.
 
“Saturday morning’s crash was a heartbreaking tragedy and requires us to look closely at the safety regulations in place for the discount tour bus industry,” said Schumer. “While it’s vital we get to the bottom of what caused Saturday’s crash, we must make sure that the regulations that govern the overall safety of this industry are effective and being followed by operators.”
 
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), said, “The low-cost intercity bus travel industry along the Northeast Corridor has expanded rapidly in recent years and it appears safety regulations haven’t kept pace.  There needs to be a thorough, extensive review of all rules governing these bus operators, so we ensure tragedies like the one on Saturday don’t happen again.”

“I introduced a bill last month that would give the city more authority to crack down on bus companies by requiring them to get permits,” said NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Perhaps this tragedy will give impetus to the fact that we need further regulation of these buses.”
 
In their letter to the NTSB, Schumer and Velazquez noted the rising popularity of low-cost intercity bus travel that generally operates with curbside pick-up, instead of traditional terminal pick-up. According to a recent New York City Department of City Planning study, curbside bus travel in the Chinatown area of Manhattan produces more than 2000 arrival and departures weekly and has led numerous community groups to express legitimate concerns regarding the safety and soundness of the curbside operators.  The bus service is also increasingly popular in the outer boroughs and New York City suburbs.
 
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), while charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, is also charged with the responsibility of evaluating the effectiveness of other government agencies’ programs for preventing transportation accidents. Schumer and Velazquez are requesting the Board use its authority to begin a broad examination of current safety regulations employed by the FMCSA for this industry and their overall effectiveness. After the tragic crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 in Buffalo in 2009, an NTSB investigation led to recommendations for overhaul of flight safety regulations for the airline industry that culminated with passage into law of stronger regulations on pilot fatigue and increased safety training for crew members. Schumer and Velazquez are hoping a similar investigation by the NTSB will have the same results for the low-cost tour bus industry.
 
In 2005 after reports of similar crashes, Senator Schumer pressed the FMCSA to increase safety inspections, hire more inspectors, provide greater disclosure of safety rakings to customers, and more aggressively provide oversight of bus drivers. Schumer said Saturday’s crash makes it that more need to be done.
 
Schumer and Velazquez noted that the World Wide Tour’s crash is not an isolated incident, but is the latest in a series of crashes and near crashes that have occurred in the discount tour bus industry. A similar bus crashed on a New York to Chicago trip in 2007 that killed 2 passengers and the driver of a of a discount tour bus traveling to Atlantic City was ejected and then run over after an accident in June of last year. There are many other examples of similar crashes.
 
March 14, 2011
 
The Hon. Deborah P. Hersman
Chair National Transportation Safety Board
490 L’Enfant Plaza S.W
Washington, D.C. 20590
 
Dear Chairwoman Hersman :
 
We write to you regarding the recent accident involving World Wide Tours that left 14 individuals dead and countless other injured to respectfully request NTSB to review the possible safety risks city wide that curbside bus carriers pose. Many of these companies are engaging in ongoing practices that violate federal transportation regulations placing New York City residents at risk.
 
New York City is the primary transportation hub of the Northeast Corridor of the United States.  Millions of vacationers and commuters travel into and out of New York every day via bus, rail, and car. In the last decade, intercity bus service has seen a significant increase in ridership across the Northeast Corridor, and New York City in particular, due to public demand for affordable and less burdensome options to air travel.
 
The rising popularity of intercity bus travel is largely due to low-cost “curbside” carriers which do not operate out of terminals like traditional bus services, but instead use city streets and sidewalks to drop off and pick up passengers.  According to a recent New York City Department of City Planning study, curbside bus travel in the Chinatown area of Manhattan has increased significantly, producing more than 2000 arrival and departures weekly.  This has led to numerous community groups expressing legitimate concerns regarding the safety and soundness of the curbside operators. 
 
As you know, DOT regulations require bus operators to ensure passenger safety, adequately maintain buses and place strict requirements on driver qualifications.  When companies violate these regulations as we unfortunately saw with the events of March 12 the public is put in harm’s way, which is why we believe that, in addition to your investigation of the crash itself, you should broadly examine federal regulations of low-cost curbside carriers to avoid future accidents that could needlessly place individuals in harms way. 
 
There is ample evidence that the incident involving World Wide Tours is not an isolated incident but rather just one example of an industry that in many cases is operating outside the bounds of city, state and federal transportation safety guideline. As NTSB is aware the company in question had two previous accidents that injured two individuals, had a poor ranking for both vehicle maintenance and limiting driver’s hours.
 
The growth of curbside busing has placed unsustainable pressure on New York City’s infrastructure and places New Yorker at risk. As such violations create unsafe conditions not only in New York City, but also on the nation’s highways.  This is why we are requesting that the National Transportation Safety conduct an investigation to examine the possible safety risks to New Yorkers of curb side bus operators. 

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