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NTSB study shows rapid growth of curbside carriers poses challenges for effective safety oversight

November 1, 2011

NTSB study shows rapid growth of curbside carriers poses challenges for effective safety oversight
Source: National Transportation Safety Board

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman was joined today by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez to release the results of a six-month study on curbside motorcoach safety initiated following a series of accidents in this rapidly growing industry.

The study – requested by Senator Schumer and Representative Velázquez following the March 12, 2011, bus crash in the Bronx that killed 15 and injured 18 more – highlights key safety issues related to this fast-growing segment of the transportation industry.

This report is the first comprehensive evaluation of the motorcoach industry, with an emphasis on what are commonly known as curbside carriers. Curbside motorcoach operations consist of scheduled trips that begin or end at locations other than traditional bus terminals; most of these operations pick up or discharge passengers at one or more curbside locations. The study analyzed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) data and conducted field work, which included interviews, focus groups, and observations of compliance reviews and inspections.

Key study findings include:

  • In general, motorcoach travel is safe. However, curbside carriers with ten or fewer buses AND carriers who have been in business for ten years or less, have higher accident rates and higher roadside inspection violation rates.
  • The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was 7 times that of conventional bus operations: 1.4 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for curbside carriers compared with 0.2 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for conventional scheduled carriers.
  • The exclusion of buses from routine enroute inspections – especially of curbside carriers that don’t operate from terminals – reduces opportunities to discover safety violations.
  • The FMCSA is overburdened. For example, 878 FMCSA and state personnel are responsible for compliance reviews for more than 765,000 U.S. motor carriers, a ratio of 1.15 investigators per 1,000 motor carriers.
  • Bus driver fatigue, a contributing factor in many accidents, is a continuing safety concern.
  • There is a lack of transparency in ticket sales. More than conventional carriers, curbside operators use online bus brokers. FMCSA has no authority to regulate these brokers.

+ Executive Summary
+ Full Report (PDF)

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