FMCSA closes some carriers after bus accidents, safety problems

Commercial bus carriers transport many passengers in and out of Chicago every day. A few are long-established companies with familiar names. Recently, however, a number of discount carriers have sprung up around the country, and there have been concerns about some of their safety records. In 2011, a series of fatal bus accidents involving discount carriers caused authorities at the state and federal level to increase their oversight of the companies.

Last week, their investigations led the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to close 26 discount bus lines. The FMCSA is responsible for monitoring busing companies whose routes travel across state lines. While some of the companies frequently ran afoul of safety regulations, federal authorities had some trouble tracking them down because they would constantly reorganize their corporate structure. The companies repeatedly transferred business operations among a number of subsidiaries to avoid sanctions.

As common carriers, bus companies have a substantial responsibility to ensure the safety of passengers who travel with them. Some in Congress are also attempting to provide stiffer penalties for violating safety rules. For example, companies would face greater restrictions against going back into business under a different name after being shut down. In addition, companies that do business without a proper permit face a $2,500 per day fine. The legislation would increase that tenfold.

Ray LaHood, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, said that the closure of 26 companies should serve as a warning to other bus lines. “Follow the rules, keep people safe, or we will shut you down,” said LaHood.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “26 Bus Lines Closed Amid Safety Effort,” Ted Mann, May 31, 2012.