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FMCSA inspections may have missed safety issues

The safety of bus and trucking companies is a continuing issue in the United States. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is tasked with overseeing commercial carriers to ensure that they are following safety guidelines. These rules include limitations on the number of hours drivers can be behind the wheel each day, to the safety checks that must be conducted before every journey.

While federal inspectors have conducted reviews that have led to the shutdown of over 100 bus and trucking companies in the past three years, there is a growing sentiment that the FMCSA is not doing enough to keep unsafe carriers (especially bus companies) off the road.

A recent article by the New York Times highlighted a report produced by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which noted that safety regulators “missed or ignored warning signs before four deadly crashes” where commercial trucks and buses were involved. These crashes took the lives of 25 passengers and injured 83 others.

The report was particularly telling with regard to bus accidents, which had not seen the same declines as semi-truck accidents. One of the crashes of particular concern involved a Mexican-owned bus company that crashed in the mountains of California. The cause of the crash was ruled to be due to defective brakes, even though the bus had “numerous mechanical problems.” However, a month before the crash, FMCSA officials had conducted a safety review and found the bus to be in satisfactory condition.

This goes to show that while federal investigations may show that a company may be following proper safety guidelines, an independent investigation may reveal troubling issues that may show that a company has not been following these rules and could actually be held liable in an accident.

Source: NY, “Safety board faults truck and bus oversight,” Matthew Wald, November 7, 2013

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