Today, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA), along with Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Tim Holden (D-PA) introduced legislation to improve passenger safety on America's buses and motorcoaches. The "Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011" will increase safety and strengthen the U.S. Department of Transportation's oversight and ability to set uniform safety standards on new and existing buses.
"Buses and motorcoaches remain a popular and cost-effective way for millions of Americans to travel every day for work and for pleasure. With recent events like the terrible bus crash in New York in mind, it is essential that the traveling public is protected." Shuster said.
The BUSES Act improves the safety of the nation's approximately 35,000 motorcoaches, which provide 750 million passenger trips annually. While the intercity motorcoach industry, including scheduled service and charter and tour operations, continues to be an extremely safe mode of transportation, recent accidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement. Shuster's legislation would ensure only the best, most well-trained drivers transport passengers, and requires research and testing that may lead to further regulations governing the safety of this flexible, cost effective, and heavily used mode of transportation.
"One of the first things my legislation does is require the USDOT to root out bad actors and unsafe and illegal motorcoach operators," Shuster said. "Ophadell Williams, the driver in the Bronx bus crash, should have never been on the road. He fraudulently obtained his driver's license and had multiple felony convictions. We now know of at least two other bus drivers who have been arrested for license fraud in New York alone. My legislation would focus on taking these bad actors off the road, making sure the person behind the wheel of a bus is professional, well-trained and legally able to drive."
The BUSES Act is the most recent in a long line of transportation safety initiatives championed by Congressman Shuster, who was a lead author of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, authored legislation and has been a leader on the issue of pipeline safety, has previously introduced motorcoach safety legislation, voted in favor of the "Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010" to address safety improvements in the wake of the Colgan Air crash in New York, and recently had an amendment to increase aviation safety and improve the FAA rulemaking process passed by the House as part of the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011.
To ensure only the best, most well-trained and able drivers should be allowed to transport passengers. The BUSES Act of 2011:
* Establishes minimum training requirements for drivers seeking a commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement;
* Encourages USDOT to review States' current requirements for earning a CDL with a passenger endorsement;
* Improves oversight of the heath of CDL drivers and CDL medical certificates;
* Seeks to root out bad actors by requiring USDOT to register only those operators willing and able to comply with all federal regulations, eliminating so-called "reincarnated" carriers that have gone out of business and begun operations again to avoid enforcement.
"My legislation also recognizes that the best safety improvements come from sound science and empirical study, not from bureaucratic government mandate," Shuster added.
The BUSES Act improves safety standards for motorcoaches based on sounds scientific research, testing, and analysis as a key element of reform. The BUSES Act of 201:
* Requires USDOT to complete research and testing on key safety issues, including occupant protection; collisions; roof strength; window glazing; fire prevention, detection, and migration; and emergency evacuation, and to promulgate new motorcoach safety rules based on this research and testing;
* Ensures USDOT's research and testing is done within time frames that will allow it to view any changes in one safety area in conjunction with changes in other safety areas to prevent compromising safety in any area.
Finally, the BUSES Act takes into consideration that America's motorcoach industry is largely a small business, family owned industry. To improve safety and keep this critical industry operating in a weak economy, the BUSES Act of 2011:
* Authorizes tax credits and loans to help defray the costs of safety improvements;
* Provides grants to the smallest operators who show a demonstrated need for aid.