Transportation Secretary Cracks Down on Unsafe Commercial Vehicle Operators

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shut-down Wisconsin-based trucking company WTSA US Express June 8 because its operations presented, "an imminent safety hazard." The FMCSA ordered the shutdown after discovering that the company employed drivers who didn't have commercial licenses, also allowing them to operate without medical records or records of duty status. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood said, "Commercial truck and bus companies that blatantly violate federal safety standards and jeopardize public safety will be shut down. Safety is always our top priority."

That was certainly the case two weeks previously, when 26 inter-city bus companies that make pickups in Manhattan's Chinatown were shut down by federal regulators May 31 because of the safety hazards they pose to passengers. The bus lines, known collectively as the Chinatown buses, transported as many as 1800 passengers a day between New York and cities ranging from Washington, D.C. and Boston to as far as Florida destinations.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of that action, "Shutting them down will save lives." The 26 lines affected were actually affiliated with just three operators; every time a bus line was cited for a safety violation, it would simply change its name and continue operations, Senator Charles E. Schumer explained.

The results were often deadly. In March of 2011, one of the Chinatown buses returning from an overnight casino trip to Connecticut crashed, leaving 15 passengers dead. Just two days later, another Chinatown bus crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and one of the passengers.

These and several other accidents prompted a larger investigation into businesses offering curbside passenger pickups from Chinatown to other destinations. What federal officials discovered was that many companies hired bus drivers without performing background checks, drug or alcohol tests or even verifying their commercial licenses. Many of the 26 bus lines also failed to monitor drivers' workloads to ensure they were not working too many hours or getting inadequate rest periods between shifts. The crackdown comes as broad legislation to improve bus safety is pending in Congress. The proposed transportation bill would require operators to display safety ratings both in their buses and on the websites where passengers can purchase tickets.

Government safety regulations exist for a reason—to protect passengers from accidents and crashes that can lead to fatalities. When bus operators ignore these rules, they put their customers and other drivers on the road at risk. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a personal injury attorney at Arnold & Itkin for a free consultation today.

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