When you board a bus, be it school, city, or tour, you entrust your life to the hands of the bus driver and the company or entity that operates the bus. A bus driver may have up to sixty lives for who’s safety they are responsible, and we assume that the driver will execute his/her responsibility with the utmost care and diligence. We also assume the bus operator has properly investigated the driver’s background and safety record, and is using only safe drivers qualified to operate such a large piece of machinery. And indeed, the law dictates that a bus company must operate its busses with extraordinary care.
Two recent tour bus crashes, one in Yucaipa, California, the other in Oregon, give us all pause to rethink our faith in those driving and operating busses. Fortunately the Department of Transportation issued a statement last week, saying that federal officials will now undertake a crucial safety crackdown on motorcoach companies they consider to be “high-risk”. Inspectors and auditors will receive special training aimed at looking at key areas operations at all high-risk companies.
The announcement comes in the wake of the February 3rdtour bus crash in Yucaipa that left eight people dead and dozens more injured. Less than a week after the accident, officials from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ordered the company responsible for the operation of the bus, Scapadas Magicas, LLC., to immediately stop all operations in the United States, calling it an “imminent hazard to public safety”. Law enforcement has also been stepped up to look out for bus drivers who speed, use cell phones, and make unsafe lane changes, as well as a number of other potential hazards. In the aftermath of the crash, officials tracked down the other two buses the company had operating in the United States and found that those also had serious safety violations. Investigators stated that the company had failed to make sure that the buses were inspected, repaired, and maintained systematically. They also failed in ensuring that driers were properly qualified and licensed to operate the vehicles.
Scapadas Magicas was not the only bus company based out of the United States barred from operating in the U.S. Mi Joo Tour & Travel, based out of Vancouver, has also been deemed to be an “imminent hazard to public safety” in the wake of the December 30, 2012 crash in Oregon that left nine people dead. An investigation into the crash found that the driver had worked 92 hours in the seven days leading up to crash (exceeding the maximum 70 hours) and that the bus company did not perform the required post-accident alcohol and drug tests. There was a failure to make sure drivers were properly rested and a failure to maintain a driver’s log as required by law. Officials claim that the company would routinely dispatch drivers without regards to hours of service requirements. Records show that in 2010, the company was cited by the FMCSA for eleven violations and issued a “conditional” rating, which meant they were in jeopardy of losing their ability to operate in the United States. In 2011, they were issued eight violations and issued a “satisfactory” rating. Early in 2012, Mi Joo Tour & Travel had been suspended from operating for two months after they failed to pay a fine for failing to meet U.S. requirements for drug and alcohol testing.
Private and public transit companies are responsible for the safety and well-being of every passenger that boards their vehicles. The Roberts Law Firm in Orange County has represented numerous clients in personal injury and wrongful death suits. Those who are suffering as a result of these two accidents, as well as countless others, are entitled to compensation of medical bills, lost income, and the long road of physical and emotional recovery.