When Americans board a bus or motorcoach, they should be able to expect a few basic things. The driver should be a licensed professional; the bus should be mechanically sound, and the company should take passenger safety seriously. Last Friday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration held a National Motorcoach Safety Summit to make sure bus operators take steps to live up to those basic expectations.
Safety is DOT's number one priority. Everyone on our team understands that, and most of the operators in the motorcoach industry understand that. I'm pleased to say that bus service remains one of the safest forms of travel in America.
But a series of high-profile crashes in 2011 has brought tragedy to too many families. These crashes have put a dent in the industry's once-sterling safety record and undermined passenger confidence. The goal of the summit was to bring stakeholders together to find a way to turn that around and protect passenger lives.
At the summit, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro announced an upcoming two-week sweep of thousands of surprise safety inspections. The Passenger Bus Safety Inspection Strike Force involves inspections of motorcoaches, tour buses and school buses around the country. Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of safety reviews of our nation's 4,000 carriers. I’d much rather hear about a bus failing an inspection – proof that our system is working – than think of the consequences if that bus were still on the road.
Later, participants discussed best practices to increase vehicle and driver safety and effective public outreach tools to make sure consumers choose a safe company every trip and every time.
This fall, DOT will introduce a smartphone app to help passengers choose their motorcoach carrier wisely. When it’s released in November, you’ll have quick and easy access to a bus operator’s safety record before booking a trip or climbing aboard.
FMCSA also offers a pre-trip checklist and a safety violation complaint hotline, 1-888-DOT-SAFT.
The motorcoach industry has many moving parts, and we all need to work together to make sure that needless tragedies are avoided and that passenger safety is always everyone's priority. Summits like last Friday's, where our industry and enforcement partners come together to solve problems, will help us achieve that goal.