Safety officials criticized for failure to stop truck and bus accidents

People in the U.S. rely on federal regulators to ensure that commercial truck and bus companies follow the rules and operate as safely as possible on our nation's highways. Unfortunately, according to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board, safety officials in the federal government failed to act in time to stop a number of serious truck and bus accidents last year.

The NTSB specifically cited four serious bus accidents that resulted in a total of 83 injuries and 25 deaths. The Board criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal agency responsible for regulating interstate trucking and bus companies, for failing to shut down the businesses responsible for the accidents until it was too late. The companies involved in the crashes cited by the NTSB all had previous records of serious safety violations.

For its part, the FMCSA said that it has been working in recent years to shut down dangerous motor carriers. Since 2010, the agency has shut down well over 100 trucking and bus companies that are not complying with current federal safety rules. From 2000 to 2009, the agency shut down one company per year on average.

Of course, like many state and federal agencies, the FMCSA is expected to do more with fewer resources. According to Anne S. Ferro, the FMCSA administrator, approximately 350 inspectors are responsible for overseeing roughly 10,000 bus companies and 500,000 trucking companies.

Although the NTSB has no official regulatory authority, it recommended that the FMCSA make serious changes to the way it does business. Specifically, the Board said that the FMCSA should continue to audit motor carriers with a history of safety violations and should do everything it can to follow up afterward. In the Board's view, the key is for the FMCSA to actively prevent safety problems that lead to accidents instead of simply responding after something has gone wrong.

It is too soon to tell the exact steps that the FMCSA is likely to take as a result of the Board's recommendations, though it is worth noting that the agency did not disagree with any of the NTSB's findings.

Unfortunately, injuries from accidents involving large commercial trucks or buses are often times severe. We are currently handling just such a case where the failure of the FMCSA to assure a bus company with a host of safety issues was shut down resulted in a catastrophic bus crash. If you have been injured in a truck or bus accident, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help you understand your legal rights and explain more about your options.