NEW YORK — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Monday released the results of a six-month study on curbside motorcoach safety that was initiated following an accident earlier this year.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez requested the study following a March 12 bus crash in the Bronx that killed 15 people and injured 18 more. The study highlights key safety issues related to this segment of the transportation industry.
"It's abundantly clear that the oversight of this industry has not kept pace with its growth, and the consequences have been deadly," Schumer said. "The NTSB report is a wake-up call that we need a more rigorous regulatory regime, and it provides a blueprint for how to fill the gaps."
The 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.
The study analyzed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 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 10 or fewer buses and carriers who have been in business for 10 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 seven 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 en route inspections — especially of curbside carriers that don't operate from terminals — reduces opportunities to discover safety violations.
"Motorcoach safety is on the NTSB's Most Wanted List because of the potential for high-consequence accidents like we saw in the Bronx," Hersman said. "It's time to recognize that traditional transportation services have morphed into new business models that challenge existing regulatory constructs."
The study and its executive summary are available online here.
Since March 2011, the NTSB has initiated investigations into two curbside bus crashes, and it has been assessing safety issues in three others. These five accidents resulted in 22 fatalities and 159 injuries.