March 16, 2011

After Two Fatal Bus Crashes Claim 17 Lives in New York Region, Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Legislation to Require Federal Commercial Driver Training; Currently No Requirement Exists for Commercial Driver Training for Bus Operators

Deadly Accidents in New York and New Jersey This Week Latest in Series of Crashes Involving Discount Tour Bus Industry Legislation Would Require Driver Training, and Strengthen Safety Standards for Bus Companies

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced their co-sponsorship of legislation to strengthen bus safety and improve driver training to reduce the number of low-fare bus crashes and related fatalities. The two bus crashes this week involving World Wide Tour and Super Luxury Tours are not isolated incidents, but the latest in a series of crashes, and near crashes, that have occurred in the discount tour bus industry. In August 2005, a low-fare tour bus traveling from Boston to New York burst into flames on a Connecticut highway, with passengers barely escaping; in September 2006, a low-fare tour bus heading to New York City crashed and three people were injured as it rolled off an exit ramp in Massachusetts; In May 2007, a similar tour bus company crashed on a trip from New York to Chicago, killing two people; and this past June a bus from Chinatown heading to Atlantic City crashed and the driver was ejected and then run over.

“The tragedy of two fatal crashes in just four days make a thorough, industry-wide review of bus safety standards by NTSB even more important. I’m not going to rest until we get to the bottom of what happened in both of these crashes, and put in place the necessary safeguards to make commercial buses as safe as they possibly can be,” said Senator Schumer.

“We can’t wait for another deadly bus crash to increase protections for consumers and ensure bus safety,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This bipartisan legislation is an important step towards reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by motorcoach accidents. This common sense approach would help overhaul bus safety standards by requiring seat belts and stronger roof standards to better withstand rollovers. Congress must come together and prevent any future bus trips from turning into tragedies.”

This past Saturday, a World Wide Tour bus traveling from Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to Chinatown crashed on Interstate 95 in the Bronx, flipping onto its side, and killing 15 people. On Monday evening, a Super Luxury Tour bus headed from Chinatown to Pennsylvania crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing two people, including the bus driver who was ejected through the front windshield.  

Half of all motorcoach fatalities over the past ten years have occurred as a result of rollovers, and 70 percent of the individuals killed were ejected from the bus. 

“Every year millions of adults and children ride on motorcoaches without the basic safety protections routinely available in other modes of transportation. And every week, on average, there is a motorcoach crash or fire that often results in deaths and injuries that could have been prevented,” said Jackie Gillan, Vice President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  “Recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for improving occupant protection and keeping unsafe motorcoach operators off our roads have largely been ignored or languished for many years.  Passage of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act will change that and save lives.”

The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, would specifically require:

  • Improved commercial driver training. Currently, no training is required by federal regulation.
  • Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
  • Anti-ejection glazing windows to prevent passengers from being easily thrown outside the motorcoach.
  • Strong, crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers.
  • Improved protection against fires by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior, and better training for operators in the case of fire. 
  • A National Commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry to ensure that only medically qualified examiners conduct physical examinations of drivers and a medical certificate process to ensure that all certificates are valid and no unqualified operator is allowed to drive.
  • Strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety inspections including roadside inspections, safety audits, and state and motor carrier programs for identifying vehicle defects.
  • Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location that cannot be tampered with by the driver.