Former National School Transportation Association President Dale Krapf recommended that the House Transportation Committee direct the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to not move forward with implementing a hike in insurance limits for private school bus and motorcoach companies.
President Obama passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, on Dec. 4, 2015, to provide the first long-term funding of highway infrastructure in over a decade. The FAST Act authorized $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for various highway programs, including public transportation, motor vehicle safety, technology and statistics.
Under the FAST Act, Congress also directed FMCSA to halt its attempts to raise the insurance limits on private commercial passenger carriers that NSTA and the United Motorcoach Association said would have quadrupled costs for both the private school bus and motorcoach industries.
During Tuesday’s testimony at the U.S. Capitol building, Krapf said FMCSA seeks to raise the limits, “despite the lack of compelling evidence demonstrating current minimum limits.” Krapf, who is also chairman of the board for school bus and motorcoach company Krapf Group, added that the Transportation Committee “wisely” foresaw that raising the limits could be used as a barrier to new passenger carriers and could result in a burden to smaller fleets. Congress responded in the FAST Act by directing FMCSA to conduct two comprehensive reports on the effects of raising the limits and provide the results to legislators before proceeding.
The first study, which was completed in March, investigated crashes, injuries and fatalities involving over-the-road buses and school buses. The study analyzed if companies of various sizes had adequate insurance to cover the claims. It also analyzed if insurance affects the behavior and safety record of motor carriers, if insurance reduces the rate of crashes, and anticipated impacts of increasing insurance premiums.
A second study, which Krapf said to NSTA’s and UMA’s knowledge has yet to be completed, analyzes the differences between state and federal insurance requirements; if minimum levels of insurance adequately cover medical care, compensation and other costs; and the frequency with which insurance claims exceed the current minimum levels.
Krapf added that NSTA and UMA support HB 2120 (introduced in April), which would return to Congress the ability to set financial responsibility, similar to the practice in all state legislatures.
Krapf also expressed frustration with how the FMCSA records its crash statistics for motor carriers. He relayed an incident where a Krapf bus was stopped at a red light when a car struck it from behind at a high speed. The crash killed the driver of the car, who investigators later determined was intoxicated. While the crash was not the fault of the Krapf driver, FMCSA assigned the fatality to the company and posted it online for two years. The FAST Act established a procedure for removing crashes that were not preventable by the motor carrier.
“A large part of our identity and success stems from our reputation,” Krapf said. “A blemish on our outstanding record of safety from the reporting of the accident on the federal records, which was not caused by the Krapf (vehicle), is unwarranted and an inappropriate assignment of fault.”
Earlier in his testimony, Krapf reiterated the school bus safety record of, on average, five or fewer on-board fatalities annually, despite 37,000 fatalities in all road and highway crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
However, Krapf testified the committee continues to allow the FMCSA to publish what he called flawed data from the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) system for a variety of motor carrier safety violations.
“My own company has experienced a loss of business because of this unnecessary decision,” he added. “UMA and NSTA seek this Subcommittee’s assistance to correct this injustice and remove information on passenger carriers from public view until all CSA reforms, as dictated by the FAST Act, are completed.” Krapf said the provision is also included in HB 2120 that NSTA and UMA support.