SCHUMER REVEALS: LAW ON BOOKS ACTUALLY ALLOWS FOR SAFETY LETTER-GRADES TO BE POSTED ON CHARTER BUSES FOR ALL TO SEE BEFORE THEY BOARD—BUT IT’S NOT BEING IMPLEMENTED; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO REQUIRE EVERY CHARTER BUS TO POST SAFETY GRADE IN WINDSHIELD; WILL GIVE PASSENGERS INFO TO CHOOSE SAFER BUSES
Senator Already Passed A Law To Install Safety Rating Data Compiled By Feds For All To See During Last Administration—But You Wouldn’t Know It.
Schumer Says Bus Companies Even Worse Than Dahlia Are Driving Around With Violations, But The Public Hasn’t A Clue; In Wake Of Horrific Crash By Dangerous Driver Who Should Have Never Seen The Wheel & Data Showing More Companies Are Flagged, Senator Demands Feds Drive Forward To Install Bus Letter Grades—Just Like Restaurants
Schumer: Letter Of Law Allows For Safety Grade System On Buses—Anything Less Spells F-A-I-L
Following the deadly Dahlia bus crash in Queens, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in concert with the Federal Motor Carriers Administration (FMCSA), fully implement an already-passed into law bus safety rating system and develop letter grades comparable to the one New York City restaurants follow.
“On the heels of the terrible Dahlia crash and new information that shows there are other bad actors out on the streets, some worse than Dahlia, your gut reaction is to ask what more can be done to prevent these kinds of crashes and improve the culture of safety,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “But in this case, we have a law I passed in 2012 that can not only help solve this problem, but can better inform the public, too. That is why I am asking the federal Department of Transportation to hit the gas on a federal letter-grade system for private bus companies. The companies that spend money to ensure a culture of safety will rise to the top, and the bad actors who disregard the value of safety and human life will fail to survive unless they improve. We need a federal letter grade system for bus safety that mirrors the one we have for New York City restaurants because the public is in the dark on just who is violating the law and how dangerous their charter may be.”
Schumer said that in many cases, the bus safety warning signs are there, but the public is in the dark about the violations, and in some cases, people are boarding potential disasters waiting to happen. In 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring bus operators to post their safety records on buses and at ticket counters. Schumer said this legislation gives the USDOT all the authority it needs to develop and implement a letter grade system for all buses.
Schumer said it is shocking that, despite accumulating eleven unsafe violations, the Dahlia bus company was allowed to continue its operation, putting passengers and others on the road at risk. The private charter bus operated by Dahlia Travel collided with a New York City MTA bus on September 18th in Flushing, Queens, killing three people and injuring 16 others. The Dahlia bus sped across an intersection at 58 miles per hour, double the street's speed limit, hitting the MTA bus as it completed a turn onto Northern Boulevard. The momentum sent the MTA bus through the side of a fast food restaurant, igniting a small fire. The victims of the crash include Henry Wdowiak, 68, a pedestrian; Gregory Liljefors, 55, a passenger on the city bus; and Richard D. Mong, the Dahlia bus driver.
Numerous violations over the past few years have raised serious questions about Dahlia and the safety oversight of the charter bus industry. For instance, Dahlia hired Mong, the driver, despite a criminal record. Mong was fired from the MTA in 2015 after hitting two cars with his sedan on Interstate 95. He was later convicted of driving under the influence and evading arrest. Last year, a Dahlia-owned bus flipped over in snowy weather on its way to Connecticut and injured 30 people. According to the DOT, Dahlia buses have received a total of eleven violations over the course of 24 months. According to the DOT, a variety of discount bus companies have accumulated violations over the last 24 months. For instance: Eastern Coach has 25 violations; Eagle Bus has 68 violations; Golden Horse has 11 violations; Fox Bus has 67 violations; Rockledge Bus has 43 violations; Lily Travel has 17 violations, along with others.
Schumer also pointed to a New York State Senate report released this past week showing that nearly half of the private bus charter companies in New York City had unsafe driving violations. The report, titled, Violations by the Busload, found that 121 out of 249 private bus companies incurred federal violations. The report showed that there are companies worse than the Dahlia Group on the streets of New York right now.
Schumer today said he already passed a bill to help inform the public about these companies and make the roads safer. The 2012 bill mandates the FMCSA create clear and understandable safety ratings to be posted on buses and at terminals, and requires ticket sellers and bus companies to make their full safety record and history easily accessible at the point of sale. Schumer’s push for disclosing charter and intercity bus safety 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.
Specifically, the legislation requires safety performance ratings to be displayed at the point of purchase for bus tickets, the departure terminal, and on each bus. By providing a clear rating in the form of a letter grade system, 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.
Despite being signed into law, Schumer said that an adequate safety performance rating system has not yet been implemented. Currently, customers have to navigate a difficult website and spend time tracking down the identification number for their potential bus carrier on their own, in order to locate the safety information.
Schumer has a long record of fighting to improve the safety of the bus industry. In 2011, Schumer successfully pressured the NTSB to launch an industry-wide investigation into the safety regime of the tour bus industry. Schumer also urged the Department of Transportation to speed up their efforts to remove unsafe buses and unsafe drivers from the road, and crackdown on the tour bus industry by implementing tough safety standards. Schumer continues to call for the USDOT to approve a federal rule that would require electronic speed limiters in trucks and buses.
Schumer’s letter to U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao appears below:
Dear Secretary Chao:
I write to urge that you take additional steps to inform customers about the safety records of charter and intercity bus companies. While I appreciate the steps that the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have taken to enhance motorcoach safety and compliance, more is needed to ensure that passengers have the best information possible when choosing to ride charter or intercity bus. I urge you to institute a system that informs customers about the safety rating of a company in a way that is easy to understand and that is provided to customers at the point of sale, at the terminals and when they board a bus.
The majority of intercity carriers operating in the United States do a good job of promoting safety and deliver their passengers safely to destinations across the country. Unfortunately, there are those who chose to cut corners at the expense of passenger safety. According to FMCSA, the bus company involved in a fatal crash in Queens, New York earlier this month had received a total of seven unsafe driving violations. Four of those unsafe driving violations were related to speed. The company ranks in the bottom 20 percent of its peers for unsafe driving. Unfortunately, this information would have been difficult to come by for passengers who boarded that bus. It is my firm belief that passengers could have been better informed of the company’s safety problems if a system had been in place to inform them of the company’s safety ratings at the point of sale and when they boarded the bus. Such disclosure would have allowed passengers to make more informed decision as to which company they chose to travel with.
On September 18th, the private charter bus operated by Dahlia Travel collided with a New York City MTA bus in Flushing, Queens, killing three people and injuring 16 others. The Dahlia bus sped across an intersection at 58 miles per hour, double the street's speed limit, hitting the MTA bus as it completed a turn onto Northern Boulevard. The momentum sent the MTA bus through the side of a fast food restaurant, igniting a small fire. Numerous violations over the past few years have raised serious questions about Dahlia and the safety oversight of the charter bus industry. For instance, Dahlia hired the driver in this accident despite the driver having a criminal record. The driver had been fired from the MTA in 2015 after hitting two cars with his sedan on Interstate 95. He was later convicted of driving under the influence and evading arrest. Last year, a Dahlia-owned bus flipped over in snowy weather on its way to Connecticut and injured 30 people.
Under Section 32707 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act¸ or MAP-21, USDOT was instructed to establish requirements to improve the accessibility public of safety rating information of motorcoach services and operations and displaying the information at the terminal, on the motorcoach, and at all points of sale. While FMCSA provides customers with an online safety checklist and safety information for some bus companies through an online database, it does not provide riders with information that is easy to access and understand. Many people do not have regular internet access, making it difficult for them research bus companies online or through a mobile application. In addition, the ratings given out by FMCSA - satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory - do not give passengers a clear indication of the level of safety of the carrier nor are they displayed at ticket counters or at online points of purchase. Customers should be provided with this information before they purchase tickets and when they board the bus and it should be presented in a way that clearly conveys the company’s safety performance rating.
New York City has instituted a system that assigns restaurants a letter grade based on their sanitation scores and requires that these scores be posted at the restaurant. This simple grading system provides customers with the information they need when choosing where to eat and a similar scheme could be used to bring more transparency to the charter and intercity bus industry. I appreciate your attention to this issue, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
Previous Article Next Article