Texas Bus Crash Hearing Begins, Focused on Entry Loopholes

The National Transportation Safety Board begins a public hearing in Washington, D.C., today into the cause of a Jan. 2, 2008, motorcoach crash on U.S. 59 near Victoria, Texas, that focused attention on regulation of that industry. One person died and 47 people were hurt, including the driver, when the bus careened off the highway and down an embankment while carrying members of a Houston congregation to a Catholic festival in Missouri.

The hearing will start at 9 a.m. in NTSB's Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza SW, and will be webcast. NTSB said the motorcoach had entered the country from Mexico; it was being operated by a Houston charter bus company, was registered in Texas, and was displaying Texas vehicle tags. The hearing will focus on the safety aspects of the "inappropriate U.S. entry, registration, and operation of passenger carrying commercial vehicles that do not comply with the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards," the agency said in its notice.

"From our investigation of the Victoria accident, we have found that some U.S. motorcoach operators may be taking advantage of loopholes in the system to register foreign-made motorcoaches in this country, even when the vehicles do not meet U.S. safety standards," said NTSB Member Debbie Hersman, who will chair the hearing. "We will be examining these apparent loopholes and the verification processes used to register these vehicles."

Witnesses at the hearing will include representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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