Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the state Department of Transportation conducted 1,185 roadside bus inspections statewide as part of a two-week inspection initiative. The inspections, conducted between September and October, resulted in 116 bus drivers and 95 buses being taken off the road throughout the state. In the New York City area alone, 48 drivers and 26 buses were taken out of service.
This enforcement push was the latest effort in a crackdown on bus safety that Governor Cuomo launched last March. The recent two-week inspection initiative was conducted in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and police agencies across the state from September 23 to October 7.
"Since March, we have conducted more than 5,000 inspections to make sure that bus drivers and their vehicles are fit to operate in New York State," Governor Cuomo said. "The bus industry is a critical element of our transportation system and the many New Yorkers who rely upon it need to know they will reach their destinations safely."
State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, "We all benefit when strong enforcement gets unsafe drivers or vehicles off the road, allowing good drivers and their passengers to travel our highways with confidence."
Superintendent of State Police Joseph A. D'Amico said, "People should feel safe when they ride on a bus, and we will be doing whatever we can to ensure that those buses are safe. The bus initiative is just part of our comprehensive Commercial Vehicle Safety Plan targeting unsafe vehicles and drivers on New York's highways."
In response to Governor Cuomo's bus safety directive last spring, state Department of Transportation inspectors, New York State troopers, and other law enforcement officials have conducted 5,166 roadside bus inspections, removing 530 drivers and 460 vehicles from the road. In addition, New York State Police have issued more than 550 moving violations to bus drivers.
Roadside checks conducted in the New York City area continue to produce the greatest number of drivers and vehicles with serious violations. Of the 2,437 roadside bus inspections conducted there since March, 379 drivers and 387 vehicles have been taken out of service.
Since New York's inspection initiative began earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that it will be conducting a review of the safety system governing the discount tour bus industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also announced that it moved up its national bus inspection operations to assist states in conducting roadside checks of motor coaches and their drivers.
As part of the state's effort to enhance commercial bus safety, the Cuomo Administration in July announced that the Department of Transportation sent legal notice to suspend the operating licenses of eight poor-performing charter tour bus operators. The companies had failed three or more roadside inspections of buses or drivers in the previous six months, failed their scheduled semi-annual bus inspections, or received a federal out-of-service order. Two of these companies closed operations, one gave up its license to operate within New York State, and five were required to take immediate corrective actions regarding their drivers and vehicle maintenance in order to regain their New York licenses.
In addition to the bus safety crackdown, investigators with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles continue to look for bus drivers who may fraudulently obtain multiple driver licenses using aliases. Facial recognition technology is used to identify individuals who have a valid Commercial Driver License in one name and additional driver license documents in another.
The state Department of Transportation conducts more than 160,000 routine bus safety inspections annually and works with the State Police to conduct more than 120,000 roadside inspections of buses and trucks each year. These regular roadside bus inspections are conducted throughout the year, but have been intensified in the wake of recent bus crashes to ensure that buses and drivers are in compliance with regulations. Roadside safety inspections are over and above regularly-scheduled inspections, which are conducted on each vehicle at least every six months -- twice the number required by federal law. Regularly-scheduled inspections are performed on school, charter, line-run commercial, ambulette, and airport buses.
On Saturday, March 12, 2011, a bus traveling from Connecticut carrying 32 passengers crashed on the Westchester County/Bronx border, killing 15 passengers. New York State Police and the National Transportation Safety Board continue with the investigation into the crash. Only days later, on Monday, March 14, 2011, another bus traveling from New York City to Philadelphia crashed in New Jersey, killing the driver and a passenger.
The New York State Police and Department of Transportation strongly encourage travelers considering bus transportation to visit the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to review carriers' safety records, at http://www.ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/Passenger/home.asp. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also encourages the public to report unsafe carriers and incidents to its safety hotline at 1-888-DOT-SAFT or online at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.