The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had determined that four fatal accidents in the last year were due to a lack of oversight by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Transportation Department agency that regulates bus and truck safety. In the four accidents, a total of 25 passengers were killed, and 83 were injured. In contrast, federal statistics for car travel reveal that fatal accidents and accidents with serious injuries have been steadily decreasing for the last several years. Undoubtedly, this is due in no small part to the inclusion of multiple side and front air bags in new vehicles, improved “crush zones” and enhanced braking systems and traction control.
The most recent accident reviewed by the Transportation Board occurred in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on June 13, 2013. A truck operated by a company called H & O Transport struck eight other vehicles that were stopped due to an accident ahead of them. Weather conditions were not a factor. The truck rear ended an Oldsmobile Alero, which caught on fire, killing two passengers in the car, and injuring six occupants of other vehicles. The truck was speeding, on cruise control, and the truck driver had been driving for 80 hours over an eight day period, exceeding the seventy hour federally regulated mandatory limit. Further investigation revealed that H & O Transport had a history of such “hours of service” violations, with no responsive action taken by the FMCSA.
Another crash involved a Mexican owned bus traveling down a mountain in the San Bernardino National Forest in California. The bus rear ended a car, crossed into the wrong side of the road, struck a barrier, and flipped over, crashing into a pickup truck. Seven passengers on the bus and the driver of the pickup truck were killed, and the bus driver and eleven passengers on the bus suffered serious injuries. A post accident investigation showed that all six brakes on the bus were defective and there were other mechanical problems with the bus as well. One month previously, a spot check by federal investigators determined that the bus line had numerous maintenance problems, yet the FMCSA gave the bus company a satisfactory review.
The FMCSA noted that it has closed down more than 100 unsafe truck and bus companies since 2010, in comparison to only one per year for the previous ten years. One of the main issues is that the FMCSA has approximately 350 investigators to examine 10,000 bus companies, and over 500,000 trucking firms. Clearly, that is woefully inadequate and dangerous to the public.