The U.S. Transportation Department, under scrutiny after a watchdog questioned its oversight of bus companies, pledged to do deeper investigations of carriers with suspected safety deficiencies.
The department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking and bus industries, today completed an eight-month sweep of 250 suspect passenger carriers that shut down 52 of them, according to a statement.
“Bus travel is increasingly popular because it is a convenient, inexpensive option,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “But it must also be safe.”
The National Transportation Safety Board last month said in a report that the FMCSA wasn’t doing enough to catch serious safety hazards, citing repeated instances of trucking and bus companies with known problems not being shut down until after fatal crashes.
Of the 52 companies taken off the road, three have been allowed to resume operations, according to an agency list released today. That includes Lucky Star, which operates between Boston and New York’s Chinatown, which was shut down in June after inspectors found a bus with an 8-square-foot hole in its floor.
The FMCSA went beyond paperwork reviews in this year’s bus sweep, said Marissa Padilla, an agency spokeswoman. Investigators sometimes spent weeks at companies, interviewing employees and inspecting buses, she said.
The agency will use some of these techniques in future investigations, Padilla said. The agency has targeted 240 carriers out of 1,300 that had minimal inspection histories for follow-up investigations, according to the statement.
Maintenance failures, insufficient drug and alcohol testing and keeping drivers on duty too long were among the reasons cited for the 52 company closings between April 23 and November 19, according to agency data.
The NTSB said in November some bus companies treated safety citations and temporary orders to take vehicles off the road as costs of doing business. The safety board asked Foxx for a comprehensive audit of FMCSA’s oversight to identify why inspectors aren’t finding all safety violations or doing complete, accurate reviews.
–Editors: Bernard Kohn, Elizabeth Wasserman