This very morning, thousands of Americans woke up and prepared to board a commercial motor coach to take a trip. And they did so assuming the bus was safe and the driver was skilled and well-rested.
At the Department of Transportation, it is our solemn obligation to not let those bus passengers down. As warm weather arrives and gas prices soar, President Obama wants to make sure that Americans have good, safe options for summer travel.
That's why Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro and I added several new measures today to help ensure that passengers traveling America's roads by bus are as safe as possible.
Motor coach travel is one of the safest forms of travel in the U.S. In 2009, for example, more than 750 million passengers rode in America's buses, with only 50 fatalities. That number is down 19 percent from 62 fatalities in 2004. Unfortunately, recent tragic crashes in New York and New Jersey are sober reminders of the risks involved.
We don't want unsafe carriers and drivers damaging the reputation of a very safe industry, and we don't want people getting hurt. So today we're taking a big step forward for safety.
We're also asking Congress to adopt new zero tolerance policies against unsafe bus companies, to give us the authority to take unsafe bus drivers off the road, and to toughen penalties for companies and drivers who try to evade our safety actions.
And we issued a final rule standardizing testing for a commercial driver's license (CDL) and requiring anyone applying for a CDL to first obtain a commercial driver's learner's permit.
A fourth new resource in our bus safety toolkit empowers consumers to decide for themselves whether a carrier is safe. Our new Safety Checklist reminds passengers to "Think safety: every trip, every time." You can find the checklist on the new Bus Passenger Safety website. By helping Americans locate important safety information about a bus company they've chosen or are considering, we're letting them know there are more important factors than low price when planning a trip.
Today's actions are just the latest steps we've taken to improve bus passenger safety. Since 2005, FMCSA has more than doubled the number of intensive on-site compliance reviews and doubled the number of bus inspections. Since 2008, we've placed 82 different carriers out of service for safety violations.
That record combined with today's actions makes it clear that, when it comes to safety, we will not take a back seat to anyone.