Are Charter and Budget Bus Companies Required to Follow Safety Laws?

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    For long trips, school field trips, and activities for churches, social groups, and other transportation groups, thousands rely upon charter busses every year. In addition, with Philadelphia’s simple access to New York City, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., thousands use budget busses like Chinatown busses and other discount, curbside, and dollar bus companies for travel.

    Whether you are returning home from college for the holidays, visiting family out of town, or traveling for a vacation, you expect that you will get to your destination safely. However, the number of oversights in driver safety and vehicle maintenance for charter and discount bus services may prevent that from happening. The Philadelphia bus accident lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm explain some of the statistics surrounding these bus safety issues.

    Charter and Discount Bus Safety Laws

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) writes rules and regulations for both motorcoach operators and the trucking industry across the Unites States. These rules have the force of law, and govern the safety rules for bus drivers, bus companies, and bus maintenance and upkeep. Since busses not only drive on the road alongside other vehicles, but also carry people onboard, many of these laws are very strict. These rules primarily deal with driver qualifications, “hours of service,” and vehicle maintenance.

    To drive any commercial motor vehicle (CMV), including a charter bus, drivers must meet certain government-mandated qualifications. First, the driver must have a drivers’ license, must pass road tests, and must have a clean driving record for the past three years. In addition, drivers must pass additional driving record checks every year they continue to drive. Drivers must also pass medical evaluations. These screen them for hearing, sight, or limb-control problems, as well as any other medical problems that might make them unsafe behind the wheel.

    Bus drivers are only permitted to drive for limited hours each day. Because many bus routes are long trips, bus companies may be required to switch drivers on very long trips, especially if the route takes extra time because of traffic. These time limit rules are called “hours of service” rules, and limit bus drivers to:

    • Driving no more than 10 hours without an 8-hour break;
    • Staying on-duty no more than 15 hours (including rest breaks) without an 8-hour break;
    • Staying on-duty no more than 60 hours in a 7-day period (or 70 hours in an 8-day period).

    These limitations may mean that relief drivers need to be used. These rules are in place to prevent bus drivers from getting tired or losing focus while driving. Because tired driving is one of the highest causes of accidents, and can be as dangerous as drunk driving, these hours of service rules are strictly-enforced.

    Lastly, bus regulations demand certain levels of inspection and maintenance. Bus companies are required to have systems in place to ensure inspection, and must log their inspections. If there are mechanical problems, these buses should not be put into service. Drivers are also required to perform their own roadside inspections at the end of their day, and must report any problems. The inspectors used to maintain and inspect charter busses and discount bus services must be specially qualified. This means hiring specialized inspectors, especially for tricky systems like brakes.

    Fatal Bus Accident Statistics

    A recent Queens, NY bus accident is a solid example of the kinds of problems bus companies see. Especially for discount busses like Chinatown busses, the companies often fail to report or certify their drivers. The Queens bus accident is a perfect example of this, as the driver in that case was allegedly fired by the MTA (New York City’s public transportation company), and the DMV had no record of the driver’s employment at the bus company. This driver and two passengers died when he ran a red light in September.

    This is not the only instance of these kinds of accidents. Bus crash statistics often involve city busses and school busses as well as charter busses and curbside bus companies. This means it is difficult to parse out which busses cause the most issues, but we can still see some of the trends and causes of bus crashes. Though the total number of bus crashes decreases nearly every year, there were still 295 fatal bus crashes recorded in 2015, the most recent year with full statistics.

    In 2015, there were 888,907 busses registered in the US, and 261 of those were involved in fatal crashes. Bus crashes are often studied alongside truck crashes, where the reason for the crash is usually recorded. In the vast majority of cases, the cause is human error. Drivers often fail to properly monitor their surroundings, speed, or use over the counter drugs to stay alert, leading to accidents. In other cases, tire and brake failure are common accident causes.

    Philadelphia Bus Crash Lawyers

    The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm fight for injured bus passengers and bus crash victims. Our lawyers work to recover compensation after bus accidents. For a free consultation with our bus accident attorneys, call (215) 709-6940 today.

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