NEW YORK—Responding to a request from Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has agreed to complete a thorough investigation of the entire discount tour bus industry.
“It’s been over three weeks since the deadly bus crash in the Bronx,” Schumer said, referring to the World Wide Tours bus crash on I-95 on March 12, in which 15 passengers died.
“It was a terrible tragedy for the families and for New York, but these passengers did not have to die in vain,” he said. “A full and comprehensive review of the industry and the safety regulations governing it will no doubt lead to greater safety standards for the thousands of passengers who use these buses every week.”
The fact that NTSB, the agency with a primary focus on safety, has agreed to conduct the investigation, along with reviewing the I-95 incident immediately following the deadly crash, proves that there is a serious problem with the safety of these tour buses, asserted the senator.
“While many tour bus companies are very safe, some companies are infamous for lax safety standards [and] a general disregard for safety of their passengers; it seems quite obvious that they push the drivers to meet quotas—to push, push, push—so the drivers are tired and rushing, and that’s why we’ve seen a rash of accidents,” Schumer said.
The senator said that in the weeks that followed the I-95 investigation, more evidence of low-cost carriers cutting corners on safety to save money has surfaced.
“On top of [the recent accidents], in a sting operation conducted by the New York State Department of Transportation, half of all tour buses inspected had to be pulled off the road for violating laws,” Schumer noted.
Instead of focusing on one company or incident, the NTSB will examine the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations and their overall effectiveness, and review both regulatory and operational industry factors.
“The NTSB has agreed to look at every aspect of safety—the buses, the drivers, the routes, the schedule”—to ensure that “these tour buses are made safe once and for all,” Schumer said.
The review is expected to be completed in six months. The NTSB will then propose a list of changes, some of which may be put in effect by the Department of Transportation immediately. According to Schumer, changes that need legislation will have his and Velazquez’s backing.
“With this investigation, we will finally be able to crack down on those companies that willingly put their passengers’ lives at risk,” said the senator.
The NTSB did a similar review of airlines in 2009, after a plane crash in Buffalo. The Federal Aviation Administration did not thoroughly regulate the airline industry, said Schumer, and NTSB's investigation led to a series of changes in flight regulation, including stronger rules on pilot fatigue and increased safety training.
“The recent tragic accidents have underscored the need to improve motor coach safety, especially among discount carriers. By ensuring NTSB thoroughly reviews how this industry is regulated, we can keep passengers safe, while restoring consumers’ confidence in this type of travel,” said Velazquez.