The American Bus Association
(ABA) told the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit the current Federal/State partnership for motorcoach inspections is “broken,” which potentially could put passengers at risk.
ABA also said safe, well-run, high-profile local and national carriers are repeatedly being inspected to increase the government's vehicle and company inspection totals. But, at the same time, many unsafe and illegal operators are continuing to avoid detection because inspectors are not focusing on those companies, claiming they are too difficult to find.
Motor carrier inspections and enforcement are primarily achieved through a partnership between the federal government and a mixture of specially trained state and local enforcement programs. These programs are federally funded as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, known as MCSAP. Its goal is to reduce Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) involved crashes, fatalities, and injuries through consistent, uniform and effective CMV safety programs.
ABA believes motorcoach inspections are not uniformly conducted among the states. Some states do them, but others do not. Also, some states with large numbers of motorcoach companies or motorcoach visited destinations, have a low number of motorcoach inspections. These “safe harbors” are known within the industry by unsafe motorcoach operators wishing to escape inspections. ABA believes only a national, ongoing uniform inspection and targeted enforcement structure can ensure passenger safety and create a level playing field for bus operators.
ABA believes the failure of federal and state agencies to enact a comprehensive national and uniform inspection structure in all 50 states, is not a failure of regulation but a failure of prioritization and enforcement.
As the industry leader, ABA is making the following recommendations.
- Setting aside money for bus inspections and inspector training to ensure the elimination of these “safe harbor” states.
- The establishment of a bus inspection program in every state that includes training for, and testing of, inspectors specifically for motorcoaches. ABA supports a provision in the funding guidance requiring the Secretary of Transportation to rescind a portion of funding, for a given state if that state fails to enact a credible bus inspection program. It also authorizes the contracting of third party inspectors.
- Granting guidance favoring targeted inspections of carriers with a history of poor safety standards over repeated inspections of the same carriers.
- ABA supports the implementation of the Federal law known as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) provisions requiring a review of the effectiveness of the commercial motor vehicle inspection program, as it relates to passenger carriers.
- Ending the practice of illegal weigh station inspections and ensure operators are safe and compliant before the passengers board vehicles.