Hazards overlooked in federal bus safety audits

Commercial vehicles such as buses and large trucks are regulated by the federal government to ensure the safety of those who travel in them and those who share the road with them. However, a new report revealed that the federal agency charged with the task of inspecting commercial carriers is not meeting its duties. On November 7, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board announced the results of its investigation into the effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's oversight of motor carrier operations in the U.S. and called for improvements.

Missed warning signs

The NTSB launched its investigation after four commercial vehicle accidents, which killed 25 people and injured 83 more, occurred within a six-month span in 2012-13. The NTSB found that the FMCSA had awareness of safety issues with each commercial carrier company prior to the auto accidents, but failed to put the carriers out of commission until the safety violations were remedied as they should have done.

Federal Bus Safety Investigation

In some cases, the FMCSA had failed to notice some safety hazards in its inspections of commercial carriers. In one of the accidents that the NTSB investigated, the FMCSA had conducted a compliance review of a bus company one month prior to the bus accident and had rated the company “satisfactory” — the highest safety rating possible. However, the FMCSA never examined any of the company’s busses during the review and failed to inspect many of the company’s records because they were not onsite.

Lax oversight

NTSB officials said that their investigation into the FMCSA reinforced the common perception that the FMCSA is too slack in enforcing safety standards prior to accidents occurring, and that the agency only reacts after major accidents happen. Many in the commercial carrier industry view FMCSA safety citations and temporary orders to ground vehicles as merely the cost of doing business, cheaper than actually maintaining vehicles to meet safety standards consistently.

The NTSB report of its investigation results recommended a complete audit of the FMCSA’s oversight process in order to discover why inspectors are not catching all safety violations. Additionally, the NTSB recommended that the FMSCA stop using “focused compliance reviews” so often, where only a portion of a commercial carrier’s business is reviewed.

Speak with an attorney

Commercial carriers have a duty to keep their fleets in good working order, but some choose to place profits over safety and skimp on maintenance of their vehicles. When a commercial carrier’s negligence causes an accident, the carrier needs to be held accountable. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, talk to a seasoned motor vehicle accident attorney with a history of recovering compensation for those injured by commercial vehicles.