NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sen. Charles Schumer is promising a crackdown on low-cost buses after a new federal report shows that the fatality rate for people riding in so-called curbside carriers is seven times higher than conventional bus companies.
Curbside buses pick up passengers from street corners, parking lots and in front of retail stores rather than using traditional bus terminals. More than half of the companies have been in business for 10 years or less, and 44 percent have 10 or fewer buses, said the report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
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New companies with few buses were more likely to have higher accident rates and roadside inspection violations, according to the report.
The fatal accident rate for curbside operators between 2005 and March of this year was 1.4 per 100 vehicles, compared with just 0.2 percent for conventional bus operators. Curbside operators also had higher rates of deaths and injuries, the report said.
“The bottom line is if there is one thing that this report shows is that the lack of effective oversight for the curbside bus carriers has created an environment where passenger safety often comes second to short cuts and profits,” Schumer said.
Schumer suggested giving the bus operators letter grades ranging from ‘A’ to ‘D’ on their compliance with safety regulations.
“For too long, some bad apples in the industry have played fast and loose with passenger safety and today we’re here to say, ‘Enough is enough,” Schumer said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which works with states to enforce safety regulation of interstate bus companies, is overburdened, the report said. There are 878 federal and state inspectors who oversee 765,000 bus companies, or an average of slightly more than one inspector for 1,000 companies.
An in-depth review of a bus company can take an inspector two weeks or longer if the company has a lot of buses or its records aren’t well organized, the report said.
“We plan to construct a comprehensive safety regime that keeps pace with the growth of the industry, gives consumers the information they need to make safe decisions and gives federal authorities the tools they need to help put the bad apples of this industry out of business,” Schumer said.
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In March, a bus crash in the Bronx killed 15 and injured 18 more. The bus’ operator, World Wide Travel, was shut down for safety violations.
In May, a bus traveling from Greensboro, N.C., to Chinatown veered off Interstate 95 in Virginia, hit an embankment and overturned. Four passengers were killed and 50 injured. The driver acknowledged falling asleep, according to court documents.
The bus’ operator, Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., had been cited for 46 violations of driver fatigue rules in two years. The company was ordered to shut down after the accident, but within days resumed business under two new names, according to the Department of Transportation. That prompted a second shutdown order from the safety administration.
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