Curbside Bus Carriers Have Seven Times More Fatal Accidents Than Traditional Buses, Study Finds

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Posted on 5th November 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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It appears that you’re putting your life at risk if you use a city-to-city curbside bus service, according to a study just released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  

http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2011/111031.html

The study found that the rapid growth of curbside carriers poses challenges for effective safety oversight, and that such cheapie, sometimes fly-by-night bus operators have a fatal accident rate that is seven times that of buses that run out of bus terminals. 

The study’s results were released during a Halloween press conference that incuded NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.  The six-month study on curbside motorcoach safety was initiated — at the request of Schumer and Velazquez — following a series of accidents in this rapidly growing industry.

“It’s abundantly clear that the oversight of this industry has not kept pace with its growth and the consequences have been deadly,” Schumer said in a statement. “The NTSB report is a wake-up call that we need a more rigorous regulatory regime and it provides a blueprint for how to fill the gaps. I want to thank Chairman Hersman for so quickly and efficiently responding to our goal and I look forward to working with her as we now begin the process of working to overhaul how this industry is regulated and monitored.”

The deadliest accident to date  happened March 12 in the Bronx, when a bus crash killed 15 people and injured 18 more. That accident ” highlights key safety issues related to this fast-growing segment of the transportation industry,” the NTSA said in a press release.

“Business and safety practices within the growing curbside bus industry create challenges for enforcement authorities and consumers alike when it comes to separating the safe operators from the unsafe operators,” Hersman said at the press conference.

The report is the first comprehensive evaluation of the motorcoach industry, with an emphasis on what are commonly known as curbside carriers. Curbside motorcoach operations consist of scheduled trips that begin or end at locations other than traditional bus terminals; most of these operations pick up or discharge passengers at one or more curbside locations.

The study analyzed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) data and conducted field work, which included interviews, focus groups, and observations of compliance reviews and inspections.

The key study findings include:

1. In general, motorcoach travel is safe. However, curbside carriers with 10 or fewer buses and carriers who have been in business for 10 years or less, have higher accident rates and higher roadside inspection violation rates.

2. The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was seven times that of conventional bus operations: 1.4 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for curbside carriers compared with 0.2 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for conventional scheduled carriers.

3. The exclusion of buses from routine enroute inspections — especially of curbside carriers that don’t operate from terminals — reduces opportunities to discover safety violations.

4. The FMCSA is overburdened. For example, 878 FMCSA and state personnel are responsible for compliance reviews for more than 765,000 U.S. motor carriers, a ratio of 1.15 investigators per 1,000 motor carriers.

5. Bus driver fatigue, a contributing factor in many accidents, is a continuing safety concern.

6. There is a lack of transparency in ticket sales. More than conventional carriers, curbside operators use online bus brokers. FMCSA has no authority to regulate these brokers.

“Motorcoach safety is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List because of the potential for high-consequence accidents like we saw in the Bronx,” Hersman said. “It’s time to recognize that traditional transportation services have morphed into new business models that challenge existing regulatory constructs. I want to thank Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Velazquez for their leadership on this important safety issue.”

Since March, the NTSB has initiated investigations into two curbside bus crashes and has been assessing safety issues in three others. These five accidents resulted in 22 fatalities and 159 injuries.

“When travelers board a bus, they should feel safe, whether the trip starts in a terminal or at a Chinatown sidewalk,” Velazquez said in a statement. “”The NTSB study has revealed important information about curbside motorcoach travel and, in the coming weeks, we’ll need to continue working to improve the safety regulations that govern this growing industry.”

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