U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Contact: Candice Tolliver
U.S. Department of Transportation Unveils Strong New Measures to Improve Passenger Bus Safety
Secretary LaHood announces new commercial driver's license standards, federal safety requirements, consumer tools, and stepped up enforcement campaign
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced several new measures that the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking to help ensure that passengers traveling by bus are as safe as possible. The U.S. DOT will now require more rigorous commercial driver's license testing standards, seek new rules to strengthen passenger carrier and driver compliance with federal safety regulations, and empower consumers to review safety records of bus companies before booking. Standing outside motorcoach buses at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Ferro also announced that FMCSA will be teaming up with state law enforcement to conduct unannounced motorcoach inspections at popular travel destinations throughout the spring and summer peak travel season.
"Safety is our number one priority," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "These new requirements we are announcing today will help ensure passengers are safe and that carriers and drivers are in full compliance with federal safety regulations. The public deserves to know that when they board any type of bus or commercial vehicle, they will be delivered to their destination safely."
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued a new final rule requiring anyone applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) to first obtain a commercial driver's learner's permit (CLP). The rule also requires all state licensing agencies to use a CDL testing system that meets the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators CDL knowledge and skill standards, and prohibits the use of foreign language interpreters to reduce the potential for testing fraud. Prior to this new rule, CDL applicants were not required to first obtain a learner's permit and CDL testing systems were not uniform nationwide.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has put forth several new policy proposals designed to raise the bar for passenger carrier safety, including a provision that would give the U.S. DOT greater authority to pursue enforcement action against unsafe "reincarnated" passenger carriers by establishing a federal standard to help determine whether a new carrier is simply a reincarnation of an old, unsafe carrier.
The Department is also proposing to require new motorcoach companies to undergo a full safety audit before receiving U.S. DOT operating authority, revise current law to ensure a driver's CDL can be suspended or revoked for drug- and alcohol-related offenses committed in non-commercial vehicles, and raise the penalty from $2,000 a day to $25,000 for passenger carriers that attempt to operate without USDOT authority.
"The public deserves affordable and efficient passenger bus services - but more importantly safe bus services," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "These measures will help us to better identify and swiftly weed out unsafe and irresponsible operators. Our agency is committed to using every available resource to improve passenger carrier and driver safety."
Today, USDOT also unveiled a "Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time" pre-trip safety checklist that will help consumers review a bus company's safety record, safety rating and USDOT operating authority before buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for group travel. The checklist is now available online at FMCSA's Passenger Bus Safety Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx. FMCSA is also encouraging consumers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA's consumer complaint Web site: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp.
"Our new free online tools will empower consumers to select the safest bus companies and report any safety violation to federal authorities. By placing bus safety resources at the public's fingertips, we will help make passenger bus travel as safe as possible," said Secretary LaHood.
In addition, FMCSA and its state and local enforcement partners are supporting improved passenger bus safety with a growing number of unannounced bus safety inspections across the country. Starting this week and lasting throughout the summer travel season, the enforcement campaign will target popular destinations such as amusement parks, national parks, casinos, and sports event venues.
Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of unannounced bus safety inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation's estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies. Roadside safety inspections of motorcoaches jumped from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, while compliance reviews rose from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010.
The Administration has taken a number of additional actions over the past several years to improve passenger safety:
- Last December, USDOT launched a new safety measurement system titled Compliance, Safety, Accountability that provides detailed safety data to identify bus companies for safety interventions.
- The Obama Administration is spearheading major improvements to passenger carrier safety through a wide-ranging Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. USDOT has proposed rules that will require buses to have seat belts and electronic on-board recorders to replace easily falsified paper records of driver hours.
- Last year, USDOT adopted a rule to combat distracted driving by banning commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel and proposed a new standard to prohibit hand-held mobile phone use.
For more information on USDOT's range of passenger bus safety initiatives, please visit the FMCSA Web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
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