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National Transportation Safety Board critical of motorcoach industry

10:39 PM, Aug 2, 2012   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Megabus crash on I-55 -- PHOTOS

By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Megabus USA covering Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin has a satisfactory rating. Its 135 drivers covered more than 8,000,000 miles last year and recorded six crashes. Over the past 24 months, seven drivers were given violations for fatigued driving.

Megabus did not respond to our request for information regarding the seven violations for fatigued driving. 

A spokesperson issued a statement saying, "Safety remains our number one priority. We can confirm that the vehicle involved in the accident was manufactured in 2011 and had passed a full preventative maintenance check within the past week."

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board would not comment about Thursday's Litchfield crash because the local investigation is just getting started. However, just last year, the NTSB issued a report highly critical of the entire motorcoach industry.  The report concluded driver fatigue was a major factor in causing motorcoach accidents and that federal regulators contributed to accidents due to poor oversight.

This 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.

Key study findings include:

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

- The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was 7 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.

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

- 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.

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

- 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.

Eric Weiss, a spokesperson with the NTSB said, "The findings caused us to put motorcoach safety on our top ten lists of most wanted for safety improvements. We are looking at structural integrity, poor maintenance records, and poor oversight of the entire industry."


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