Unlike airline travel, commercial bus travel has become more hazardous over the years. There are a variety of reasons for this that involve both a lack of comprehensive regulations covering the operation and equipment on buses, as well as the lack of onboard safety measures now common in automobiles such as three-point restraint belts, head pads, and multi-positioned airbags.
Even those bus safety regulations currently on the books are not enforced as rigorously as they need to be. Thus, commercial bus operation companies are not concerned that they will be shut down for rule violations. Necessary enforcement and penalties have not occurred despite companies with serious accident and rule violation histories.
The number of highway deaths in the U.S. climbed in 2012 to 33,561 – an increase of 1,082 from 2011 – according to preliminary data released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The same data also showed that the number of deaths to occupants in large trucks increased substantially for the third consecutive year, up 8.9 percent in 2012. According to the NHTSA data, 697 large truck occupant fatalities occurred in 2012. However, that rise was not as sharp as the 20 percent escalation that occurred in 2011, according to the NHTSA, cautioning that the total number of highway fatalities remains at a historic low despite the upward trend. The last time the total number of highway deaths jumped was in 2005.
The most current data released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also shows an upward trend in the number of large commercial truck and bus crashes, as well as the number of people killed and injured in those crashes.
In November, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) representatives called for an audit of the FMCSA after its investigations of two large truck crashes and two commercial bus crashes revealed that the agency knew that serious safety issues plagued the operators, but failed to keep them off the road. “Our investigators found that in many cases, the poor performing company was on FMCSA’s radar for violations, but was allowed to continue operating and was not scrutinized closely until they had deadly crashes,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts – March 2013, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Motor Carrier Safety Progress Report (as of June 30, 2013), Commercial Carrier Journal