Every year, motorcoaches safely carry 750 million passengers around the country. But recent tragic crashes in New York, New Jersey and Arizona are a sober reminder that we can and we must do better.
Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is partnering with state law enforcement in 13 states to conduct surprise bus safety inspections. These strike forces at popular tourist destinations and ports of entry are part of FMCSA's year-round, nationwide enforcement activities to strengthen commercial bus and driver safety.
In 2009 alone, our bus safety agency and its law enforcement partners inspected more than 130,000 commercial buses. As a result, FMCSA placed 4.3 percent of bus drivers and 7.6 percent of buses out-of-service for everything from vehicle safety problems to hours-of-service violations.
FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro at commercial bus inspection strike force last August
Today, we're pleased to announce that we are adding FMCSA's safety arsenal with a final rule on Commercial Driver’s License testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit standards. This will revise testing standards to ensure uniformity across state licensing agencies and reduce the likelihood of licensing and testing fraud. The final rule will also require individuals to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit prior to obtaining a CDL.
By this fall, FMCSA will issue a final rule requiring new, mandatory training standards for entry level commercial bus drivers. Under this new rule, drivers seeking a motorcoach license must complete 80 hours of training, with at least 32 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
While these rules represent a big step forward, they are further actions in a long line of initatives DOT has taken to protect motorcoach passengers.
And, during the last three years, FMCSA placed 75 motorcoach carriers out-of-service for safety violations. During the three years previous, only 46 carriers had been shut down. In fact, because of FMCSA’s rigorous safety requirements, almost 24% of new passenger bus company applicants are never granted authority to operate.
This focus on safety has saved lives. Fatalities in motorcoach accidents declined from 70 in 2005 to 46 in 2009. But we can do better.
We owe it to the millions of passengers who travel on commercial buses to make sure that every bus on the road and every driver is as safe as possible. And today's actions are part of that constant pursuit.