July 11, 2012
In the last few years, three high-profile bus crashes in Illinois, Mississippi and Texas caused the death of 40 passengers. In the wake of these tragic bus accidents, new light has been shown on the oversight, or lack thereof, of states’ inspection processes of buses and other commercial vehicles that carry passengers. However, the cry for tighter safety regulation has fallen on deaf ears as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has not taken action.
The Associated Press reports that federal regulations require passenger buses to be inspected on a yearly basis, but who conducts the inspections and what to look for and inspect are not specified and these details are left up to the states to decide. Often inspections are conducted by private businesses, state inspectors and even the motor carriers themselves. Further, the AP reports that over half of the states have not issued specific inspection requirements and let the motor carriers determine the scope of the inspections.
Amid cacophony for the FMCSA to strengthen its oversight of the businesses and organizations that inspect buses after the three bus accidents, has yet to step up its oversight. In fact, the AP reports that the agency has stated that increased oversight of state programs is “unnecessary.”
In early 2012, as part of the highway funding bill, the United States Senate passed a provision requiring bus and motor carrier programs on the state level to be evaluated by the federal government, according to the AP; however, the measure ran out of gas in the House.
As of now bus inspections are amid a menagerie of differing state rules. Until the time the FMCSA increases its oversight of how states conduct bus inspections, it is up to injured individuals to hold bus companies responsible for negligent inspections through personal injury lawsuits.
Source: “More oversight of bus safety called for,” Boston Globe, April 2, 2012