Public Transit

DOT shuts down 26 bus companies in sweep

{mosads}Lawmakers have been trying to push a package of reforms for passenger bus service through Congress for more than a year.

After a series of deadly bus accidents in 2011 killed more than 20 people, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sponsored legislation that would require seatbelts and stronger windows on buses.

Congress held several hearings on the issue, but the measure has not been approved by either chamber of Congress yet.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said her agency was acting on its own in the meantime to make bus travel safer for Americans.

“The egregious acts of these carriers put the unsuspecting public at risk, and they must be removed from our highways immediately,” Ferro said in a statement. “With the help of multiple state law enforcement partners, we are putting every unsafe bus and truck company on notice to follow the safety laws or be shut down.”

A union that represents public transit workers said Thursday that FMCSA should be “applauded” for shutting down unsafe bus companies. But the Washington-based Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said the agency should also address safety concerns of the drivers of the buses.

“We were frankly disappointed and continue to be disappointed that the FMSCA and American Bus Association continue to ignore the impact of the issue of driver fatigue on bus operators,” ATU International President Larry Hanley said in a statement. “While the new DOT’s more rigorous regulatory regime for this industry is critically important – any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry unequivocally has to include an effective solution for driver fatigue.”

Hanley said several long-distance bus companies “get away with paying their bus drivers criminally low wages, forcing drivers to work 100 hours a week or more, often balancing two or three jobs, just to make a living.

“Unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike,” he said.

DOT said Thursday that the number of bus inspections it conducted in 2011 doubled from the number done in 2005. The agency also touted that it hand banned commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel.

Tags Sherrod Brown

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