At a time of rising gas prices, limited availability train service, and soaring flight costs, the bus business is booming. After falling off for decades, commercial bus travel has actually gained ground since 2006, with more than 700 million passenger trips in 2011 alone, according to the American Bus Association. The biggest jump is in what are described as “curbside bus operators” that load passengers on city streets as well as airport terminals and take them between big cities, often for next to nothing. For example, a bus ticket from New York-to-Boston ticket can be as little as $1.50 up to $15. For many travelers, this is the new way to get where you are going. Last year, a year that saw air travel up only about two percentage points and train travel up five percent, these curbside bus trips increased more than 30 percent. Clearly, the bus game has changed. However, with this increase in bus travel, accidents have also surged, often with very serious injuries of multiple passengers and even death.
In March last year, more than a dozen died in a crash on I-95 near New York City, when a drowsy driver lost control and hit a bridge support. Federal safety inspectors make random checks and look for leaks in the engine bay, check treads and tire pressure, and to see if the windows will actually open in an emergency. In May, the DOT shut down 26 bus companies, for everything from bad drivers to bald tires, and the hunt for rule breakers is ongoing.
They will also review a driver’s logbook to make sure he’s not driving longer than the legal limit. While they often find nothing wrong in these “paper logs,” bus safety officials say driver logs are still a major trouble spot. The solution is an “electric log,” much like an electronic timesheet that links into the engine of the bus, that identifies whenever that bus is moving, whenever it’s being operated by that driver beyond their limits.” Just like with commercial tractor trailer companies, electronic driver logs could be on commercial buses as early as next year.
And down the road, buses could more sturdy and crashworthy. Under new federal law, bus companies will look at ways to make roofs less likely to crush, windows less likely to shatter. And, some new buses are already coming equipped with seatbelts. But there’s no new rule requiring seat belts in buses already on the road. In the 1960s the National Transportation Safety Board made an “urgent” recommendation to put seat belts in buses. However, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who helped draft the new law, was asked why after 40 years there were still no seat belts in buses. “What we’ve seen in a very safe bus industry, motor coach industry today – they are moving towards with their new buses getting seat belts on – but to retrofit them costs thousands of dollars,” Shuster said. “The cost benefit is just not there.” Guess passengers will just have to protect themselves until newer buses start showing up at terminals.
For more information about our law firm, please visit www.rjrlaw.com. Or call one of our attorneys directly at 877-374-5999.