FMCSA Begins Safety Crackdown on Passenger Vehicles

The strike force, launched in coordination with the summit, is part of FMCSA's nationwide Passenger Carrier Strike Force. The two-week inspection sweep will continue through Oct. 7, 2011.

Federal, state, and local police began conducting thousands of surprise safety inspections of motorcoaches, tour buses, school buses, and other passenger vehicles across the country Sept. 23 as the national Motorcoach Safety Summit, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), kicked off in Washington, D.C.

"This summit is about preventing needless tragedies and saving lives," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We've seen the horrific consequences when motorcoach companies do not make safety a top priority. With everyone at the table, we can achieve our shared goal of raising the safety bar for the motorcoach industry."

The strike force, launched in coordination with the summit, is part of FMCSA's nationwide Passenger Carrier Strike Force. The two-week inspection sweep will continue through Oct. 7, 2011.

FMCSA also announced that it will release a new smartphone application geared to empower consumers with quick and easy access to a motorcoach company's safety record before booking a trip. The smartphone application, which will be released in November, will also allow the public to submit any safety violation to FMCSA's National Consumer Compliant Database.

"Today, we are sending a clear message that safety must be the driving force within the motorcoach industry," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "With the robust feedback, ideas, and partnerships developed at this summit, we will be better equipped to raise the safety bar and safety culture within the motorcoach industry. The public deserves no less."

Roadside motorcoach inspections have jumped nearly 100 percent, from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,705 in 2010, while compliance reviews are up 128 percent, from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. In addition, FMCSA has initiated a greater number of enforcement cases against unsafe passenger carriers under the current administration: these cases have risen from 36 in 2008 to 44 in 2010.

In addition, it has also requested that Congress approve a new procedure that would allow FMCSA to conduct bus safety inspections at en route locations such as rest stops, and to require new motorcoach companies to undergo a full safety audit before receiving operating authority.

In January 2010, FMCSA banned texting by drivers of commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses. FMCSA has also proposed a rule that would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding, or dialing a cell phone while operating a CMV. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use. FMCSA expects to issue a final rule later this year.

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