Establishing a Credible National Inspection and Enforcement Network

Issue

Every day thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of employees work in concert to provide nearly 2 million passenger trips by motorcoach. While our industry has one of the best safety records of any transportation modes, the lack of consistent national, federal inspection and enforcement means that not all bus operators are compliant with basic federal safety regulations. The failure of federal agencies to enact a comprehensive national inspection structure is not a failure of regulation, but a failure of prioritization and enforcement.

Background

Motor carrier inspections and enforcement are primarily achieved through a partnership between the federal government and state inspection personnel. The federal funding is part of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). The goal of the MCSAP is to reduce Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) involved crashes, fatalities, and injuries through consistent, uniform, and effective CMV safety programs. The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) invested nearly $200 million (FY 2013) to ensure uniform enforcement of safety rules, regulations, and standards compatible with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

The data shows that over the last decade nearly 60% of all on board motorcoach related fatalities have resulted from the operations of illegal or unsafe carriers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shifted some attention to illegal and unsafe carriers in 2013 when the National Transportation Safety Board called into question the effectiveness of the FMCSA’s inspection program. However, actions by FMCSA including Operation Quick Strike and others are not sustained processes. In fact the success of Quick Strike which shut down 56 carriers shows the systemic weakness in the current enforcement program.

Solution

ABA believes that only a national, ongoing inspection and enforcement structure can ensure passenger safety and create a level playing field for bus operators. Furthermore, while ABA supports a strong partnership between state inspectors and federal regulators we believe that the current relationship is broken. Creating long term solutions to ensure the safety of the traveling public requires that federal regulators enforce granting provisions requiring states to have a bus inspection program and trained bus inspectors. ABA is aware of only a handful of states with a vigorous bus inspection program that meets the FMCSRs.

Finally motorcoach passengers are entitled to the same protections as other modes of transportation including an operator that is compliant and a vehicle that has been inspected. Roadside inspections put passengers in danger and set up a discriminatory process that classifies motorcoach transportation as a second tier system. Simply put we do not land planes mid-flight or stop trains for inspections so to should we not stop buses mid-trip. Passengers are entitled to same safety net for motorcoaches as is present in other forms of commercial public transportation. However, we believe if a motorcoach driver is operating in an illegal or unsafe manner, or if law enforcement personnel believes there is evidence the motorcoach is itself unsafe, a roadside inspection may be warranted.