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California lawmaker introduces bus safety bill

Eight people were killed near San Bernardino, Calif., when this Scapadas Magicas bus crashed as a result of brake failure.

The Trucker Staff

6/27/2013

WASHINGTON — Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif., Wednesday introduced the Motorcoach Safety, Accountability and Technology Act of 2013, legislation that would update safety standards for newly-manufactured motorcoach vehicles while giving more power to law enforcement to inspect them.

“Local law enforcement is currently prohibited from inspecting passenger buses known to have a history of poor vehicle maintenance,” said Negrete McLeod.  “Most safety requirements are carried out by self-enforcement, leaving local law enforcement officers unable to adequately police negligent companies on the road.  My bill would remedy this issue while creating safety standards aimed at better protecting consumers.”

A recent Feb. 3 bus crash on Highway 38 killed eight people near San Bernardino, Calif., as a result of brake failure despite the company’s known record of poor vehicle maintenance.

Five days later, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration told the company involved in the accident, Scapadas Magicas, a Mexico-based carrier, it could no longer operate in the United States

Negrete McLeod said the legislation was developed in consultation with the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency leading the investigation of the San Bernardino bus crash, and has been endorsed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The Motorcoach Safety, Accountability, and Technology (MSAT) Act would specifically:

• Require the U.S. Department of Transportation to review pre-trip inspection procedures for brake adjustment and issue a new rule in three years.

• Develop minimum performance standards for safety features on new motorcoach vehicles, including emergency braking, speed limiting technology and collision avoidance systems.

• Allow law enforcement to conduct en route inspections at roadside stops for buses with a known record of improper maintenance.  This would include weigh stations, rest stops and locations that can accommodate passengers with disabilities.

The CVSA commended the introduction of the legislation, which it said would advance the cause of increasing safety in the passenger carrier industry.

“This bill has a number of key provisions that will serve to enhance safety by building on the provisions provided for in the MAP-21 legislation,” a CVSA spokesperson said. “We believe this bill addresses some of the outstanding motorcoach safety issues and, once implemented along with the MAP-21 provisions, will aid in our march towards zero deaths related to commercial bus travel.”

The FMCSA, in response to a series of fatal motorcoach crashes since March 2011, has been cracking down on unsafe motorcoach carriers, and on April 1 this year deployed more than 50 specially trained "Operation Quick Strike" safety investigators targeting high-risk passenger carriers.

In the past eight weeks, FMCSA investigators have issued out-of-service orders to bus companies in the District of Columbia, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Since the beginning of 2013, FMCSA has issued out-of-service orders to a total of 21 bus companies and eight trucking companies. The agency has also declared six commercial driver's license holders as imminent hazards, blocking them from operating in interstate commerce.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, the agency has shuttered a total of 71 motorcoach companies.

In the 11 years prior, the agency had order four motorcoach companies out-of-service.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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