The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), today conducted a hearing to examine federal bus safety programs and the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in keeping unsafe operators off the nation's highways.
"As the Committee continues to draft a major reauthorization of transportation programs, we must ensure that the nation has the best bus safety provisions possible," Chairman Mica said. "Overall, this industry has an excellent safety record. Bus operations transport approximately 750 million passengers per year, while averaging less than 20 passenger fatalities annually. However, recent accidents remind us that we must never stop working to improve safety in this or any other transportation industry. In particular, we must target the bad actors who intentionally circumvent safety regulations and continue to blatantly endanger American lives on our highways."
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, echoed Mica's emphasis on the importance of bus and motorcoach safety, and both agreed that we must be careful not to let the actions of a handful of operators jeopardize the vast majority of companies that properly adhere to safety regulations. "Motorcoach safety is an area which is often overlooked until there is a serious accident and lives are lost. Safety should be the top priority for motorcoach operators. Intercity and charter buses can transport between 40 to 50 people in a single bus. Moving that many people is a huge responsibility and should be taken very seriously," Duncan said.
"Ninety-five percent of the motorcoach industry is comprised of small companies. These are mom and pop businesses and they may only operate a few buses," Duncan stated. "These small businesses are the backbone of the entire motorcoach community. It would be irresponsible to create more regulations if they do not actually improve safety. We must make sure we focus on removing rogue operators from our highways without hurting those businesses that are complying with the law. I am confident that we can improve bus safety without additional mandates if the government does its job properly."
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) recently introduced legislation aimed at improving motorcoach safety standards -- H.R. 1390, the Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety Act of 2011. Shuster spoke in support of his bill at today's hearing, stating, "Recent incidents highlight issues regarding the enforcement of current regulations, ensuring only the best, most well-trained drivers transport passengers, and keeping "rogue" operators off of our highways. We must ensure that we take a balanced approach that ensures and improves safety while keeping this critical industry operating in a weak economy."