Magazine article Risk Management

Next Stop: Better Bus Safety

Magazine article Risk Management

Next Stop: Better Bus Safety

Article excerpt


In New York, most people rely on mass transit. And for getting out of town, one of the most popular choices are the motorcoach buses that depart from Manhattan's Chinatown. These "Chinatown buses" offer riders a cheap ticket out of town to destinations such as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and various casinos in the area.

But these low-cost tour bus companies have a horrifying track record of safety. On March 12 that fact tragically came to light when a bus returning to Chinatown from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut overturned on a Bronx highway, killing 15 people and injuring 20. Just two days later, two people were killed in another accident involving a Chinatown bus returning to New York from Philadelphia. That bus line, Super Luxury Tours, has one of the worst driver safety ratings in the nation, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Though Super Luxury Tours may be considered the bad seed of the tour bus industry, many motorcoach companies have a spotty safety record. In fact, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety reported 34 motorcoach crashes nationwide in 2010 that resulted in 46 deaths and injuries to 363 people.

These crashes have highlighted a longstanding concern over the safety of such discount coaches and, more specifically, the issue of driver fatigue, which is suspected in the Bronx crash. Currently, drivers are required to maintain handwritten logbooks to track the hours spent on the road. These have commonly become referred to as comic books, however, as many drivers allegedly falsify their records routinely.

Other concerns facing tour bus drivers are issues with licenses and medical evaluations. According to the American Bus Association, more than half of the deaths in bus accidents from 1999 to 2009 could have been prevented if the drivers involved had not been allowed behind the wheel.

In response to March's back-to-back bus accidents, a sting was initiated by the Manhattan Traffic Task Force, which pulled over more than a dozen tour buses at a surprise checkpoint. Each of the buses failed the test when inspectors from the city's transportation department found that nine drivers should not have been behind the wheel and 10 buses were deemed unfit for the road. …

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