A few weeks ago, a bus from the Sky Express bus service company was involved in a tragic accident resulting in four fatalities and several injuries. The bus struck an embankment and flipped over as it was traveling northbound on I-95 in Virginia. Police suspect driver fatigue may have played a role in the crash.
That crash was only one of the most recent in a string of bus accidents over the past few months. One of the most horrific was that of a bus, operated by World Wide Tours, on its way to New York’s Chinatown. The bus crashed into a utility pole resulting in the roof being sheared off. Fifteen passengers lost their lives. A subsequent lawsuit filed by a bus passenger claims the driver fell asleep.
Sky Express had previously been cited over 45 times for driver fatigue in a two year period. Continued violations and other shortcomings discovered during a compliance review caused federal officials to begin the process of halting the carrier’s operations, but the company was granted a 10 day extension during which time the bus accident occurred.
Improving Bus Safety
Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, stated he was “extremely disappointed” that Sky Express had not been shut down. LaHood has now put an end to such extensions saying, “There is no excuse for delay when a bus operator should be put out of service for safety’s sake.”
To combat the widespread problem of driver fatigue the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has proposed equipping commercial buses and trucks with electronic recorders to keep track of the time a driver spends behind the wheel and better enforce work hour restrictions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is asking for authority to randomly pull tour buses over in order to better catch those violating safety regulations. Of particular concern are companies who were shut down for safety violations, but continue to do business under new names or at different locations. Sky Express attempted such a reincarnation when it continued to sell tickets after being shut down by regulators. It was repainting vehicles to operate under the names 108 Tours and 108 Bus. A cease and desist order was issued against the company.
The recent crashes certainly highlight weakness in the current regulation of tour buses. Swift action by legislators will hopefully improve tour bus safety and prevent future accidents.