FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2012
SCHUMER BILL REQUIRING DISCLOSURE OF BUS COMPANY SAFETY GRADES PASSES CONGRESS, HEADS TO PRESIDENT’S DESK; BILL INCLUDES SIGNIFICANT OVERHAUL OF SAFETY REGIME FOR DISCOUNT BUS INDUSTRY
Schumer Legislation Requires DOT to Create Safety Grades and Mandates Public Disclosure of New Ratings; Gives DOT Greater Authority to Crackdown on Reincarnated Carriers
Schumer Wants Safety Grades to Be Displayed As Letter Grades, Similar to NYC Restaurant Safety Ratings, and Displayed on All Low- Cost Bus Carriers and at Ticket Counters for Passengers’ Review
Schumer: Bus Companies Will No Longer Be Able to Mask Bad Driving Records
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer’s bill requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create new safety ratings for low-cost discount bus operators and better disclosure of these ratings has now passed the full Congress and is headed to the president’s desk for a signature. Schumer originally proposed the legislation last year in response to numerous fatal crashes involving the discount tour bus industry, including a crash in the Bronx that left 15 dead. The legislation will ensure that passengers have an accurate representation of the company’s safety record when selecting their carrier so that consumers can make more informed decisions about which bus companies they should patronize.
“Bus companies are no longer be able to mask poor safety records and consumers are now able to see, before they purchase a ticket, whether the bus they are considering getting on is a safe one,” said Schumer. “This is a significant victory for consumers and will serve as a major incentive for operators to get serious about safety, or risk losing passengers.”
Schumer’s bill mandates that the Federal Motor Carriage Safety Administration (FMCSA) create a simple and understandable rating system that allows passengers to compare the safety performance of each bus company and to annually reevaluate carriers that serve primarily urban areas with high passenger loads like New York. The bill also requires DOT to improve the accessibility of these ratings to the public and to consider requirements that ratings be posted on buses, at terminals, and at all points of sale.Schumer is urging the FMCSA to make that safety rating plan a letter grade system, similar to that used in New York City restaurants, and to require that they be posted anywhere that a customer could board a bus or purchase a ticket. Schumer’s safety grade legislation was included in the Transportation bill that also included numerous provisions that allow federal regulators to crackdown on rogue operators and truly raise the bar for safety in the industry.
Passage of Schumer’s legislation comes on the heels of a year-long effort to overhaul the way the low-cost bus industry is regulated. Last month, Schumer joined Secretary Ray LaHood to announce a major sweep of rogue operators and last year successfully urged the National Transportation Safety Administration to do a top-to-bottom review of the FMCSA safety regime for the low-cost bus industry.
Over the last year there have been numerous, deadly accidents in the low-cost curbside bus industry. Last March, a low-cost carrier heading from Connecticut to Chinatown crashed between the Bronx and Westchester, killing 15 passengers. That crash followed the deadly crash in Syracuse from 2010, in which the bus driver was distracted by a GPS unit and crashed into an overhead bridge, killing 4 people. Despite the poor safety records of some bad actors in the discount tour bus industry, it is very difficult for passengers to get an accurate picture of safety records of these companies. Though the FMCSA currently has a ranking system on its website, the database is difficult to navigate and the rating system is not easy to understand.
In the wake of those crashes, Schumer introduced legislation to shine a light on the safety record of motor carriers, so that passengers can be fully informed when they book a ticket for a trip, and today that legislation passed the full Senate. Under Schumer’s plan, the FMCSA would be required to determine the safety of all carriers using a, “simple and understandable rating system that allows motorcoach passengers to compare the safety performance of motorcoach operators.”
Schumer’s legislation requires a grade to be easily accessible to the public and has strongly suggested that DOT require grades to be displayed at the point of purchase for bus tickets, the departure terminal, and on each bus. By providing a clear rating, Schumer has made the case passengers would be better informed about the safety of the buses before they purchase tickets and would be able to make a more informed decision as to which carrier to use. The system would also reward companies with strong safety records and serve as an incentive for companies to improve their safety records.
The surface transportation bill includes numerous other safety requirements which will raise the bar for motorcoach safety:
· Requires that commercial motor vehicles have electronic logging devices for recording hours of service to ensure that drivers are complying with hours of service rules put in place to keep fatigued drivers off the road.
· Requires that the DOT conduct a study on driver fatigue and maximum driving time requirements focusing on the 34-hour restart rule.
· Establishes of a national repository for records relating to alcohol and controlled substances testing of commercial motor vehicle drivers and bars employers from hiring a driver unless he or she has not violated alcohol and drug rules for the past 3 years.
· Requires bus safety standards to improve occupant protection including seat belts, roof crush strength, anti-ejection window glazing, tire pressure monitoring and rollover prevention.
· Provides the Department of Transportation with greater authority to crackdown on reincarnated carriers and companies who fail to disclose a poor safety record from the past.