It's been a busy spring for the U.S. Department of Transportation when it comes to motorcoach safety, and it's figuring to be a long summer ahead.
The most recent federal crackdowns on unsafe motorcoach operators came this week as the FMCSA ordered companies in Michigan and North Carolina to cease all operations after the feds uncovered egregious violations, such as forcing passengers to ride in the luggage compartment because there were no more open seats on board or allowing drivers to operate the coaches without CDLs.
The moves came after FMCSA shut down a motorcoach operator following the Memorial Day crash on I-95 in Virginia that killed four female passengers.
"We are shutting down unsafe carriers as quickly as our authority permits," FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro testified on June 13 before the House Committee on Transportation Infrastructure.
Since January, FMCSA has declared 18 bus companies "unsatisfactory," or that they must stop operating, and proposed that rating for another 15.
"And if a carrier or its drivers and vehicles present a severe risk, we do not wait for the 45 day appeal period," she added. "We will declare it an 'Imminent Hazard' and shut it down immediately. This past week we used our Imminent Hazard authority to shut down 3 companies, including one in Michigan that put passengers in the cargo hold. This behavior by a few is outrageous and must be stopped."
Meanwhile, even as a bill has been reintroduced in the Senate, FMCSA and NHTSA are developing motorcoach safety plans that include the installation of Electronic Onboard Recorders, better use of inspection datea, a ban on texting and cell phone use by drivers, and stronger oversight of driver medical qualifications and drug and alcohol testing. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called for zero tolerance of unsafe motorcoach operators nationwide.