Reporting John Slattery
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS 2/AP) — A Pennsylvania bus company involved in a deadly New Jersey crash has been taken off the road.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken away permission for Super Luxury Tours Inc. to operate.
A bus operated by the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., company crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike on March 14. The driver and a passenger died.
For decades, dozens of people have been killed in accidents involving so-called motorcoaches. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said during Wednesday’s hearing that, on average, 7,000 motorcoach passengers are injured each year and 16 die.
“We owe it all to the victims of bus accidents and their families to get to the bottom of what caused these crashes,” Sen. Lautenberg said.
More than 10 years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board compiled a list of changes that would make bus travel safer, but those improvements have yet to be implemented.
“We need to do this through strict enforcement of current rules, introduction of new rules and programs that close loopholes, and vigorous scrutiny through roadside enforcement and through our on-site inspection programs,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said.
The NTSB recommended that seatbelts be required for all passengers, and electronic recorders that keep track of how long a driver has been behind the wheel. It asked that roofs be stronger to prevent passengers from being ejected in a rollover, and that windows be glazed to hold together even when shattered. It also recommended windows and escape exits be easier to operate.
A more ticklish recommendation was a tightening of rules about driver training. Sixty percent of bus crashes can be linked to driver actions.
There is opposition to stiffer requirements by the American Bus Association, which estimates such improvements would increase the cost of a typical motorcoach by $89,000.
“We simply can’t look the other way and reject the idea that improving the safety of the motorcoach vehicles themselves is unnecessary,” Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said.
Travel by motorcoach is very popular, with 750 million passenger trips in the U.S. each year. Sponsors of the bill said those passengers would gladly pay a little more to know their trip would be considerably safer.