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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin. blasted for safety lapses

8/21/2012

The National Transportation Safety Board is laying the blame for a fatal bus crash at the feet of the driver and the federal agency that regulates bus driver safety. The May 31, 2011 accident, in which a passenger coach carrying 58 people rolled over in Doswell, Virginia, killed four and injured 49. The NTSB says the unsuspecting passengers were “failed at three levels; by the driver, by the operator and by the regulator. The official report called the incident “a crash that never should have happened” that was caused primarily by driver fatigue.

Federal investigators examined the bus driver’s activities for the 72 hours prior to the crash and found a lot to be concerned about. The driver’s official work schedule, sleep times, and cell phone use showed, in the NTSB’s words, “acute sleep loss, poor sleep quality and circadian disruption.” The term “circadian disruption” means the body’s normal sleeping and waking cycles are out of sync, leading to profound fatigue. NTSB directly blamed the bus company for inadequate safety practices and failure to monitor the driver.

Some of the harshest criticism from the Transportation Safety Board was aimed at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has responsibility for ensuring transportation companies follow the laws and have adequate safety plans. The bus company was in trouble long before the accident because of serious safety violations, but the FMCSA allowed it to keep operating under a temporary operating permit even though the agency found problems during inspections year after year. The bus company’s operating authority was pulled after the fatal crash.

The NTSB painted a bleak picture of the Motor Carrier Safety Association, saying it does safety compliance checks on only 2 percent to 3 percent of operators annual because the agency is overburdened and can’t handle its regulatory responsibilities. So drivers beware – you can’t be sure the bus driver in the lane behind you is alert and awake. People who are injured as a result of accidents caused by sleepy bus drivers need to consult an attorney to ensure their rights are protected, and that authorities get the information they need crack down on negligent operators.

Source: Trucker News Services, “Watchdog blames driver, bus company, FMCSA in fatal crash,” Aug. 1, 2012

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