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Rogue tour buses continue to roll

EVER HEARD of rogue bus operators? How about “at-risk” operators? “Reincarnated” bus companies ring a bell?

You won’t see any television commercials for these kinds of bus companies, that’s for sure.

But the discount bus business must be big business, because the rogues keep chugging even though the feds keep busting them for the same old safety violations.

Nearly three years after the deadly Sky Express bus crash on Interstate 95 in Caroline County helped spark a push to clean up the long-distance, discount bus industry, it doesn’t seem like much has changed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last week that the “Operation Quick Strike” investigation removed 340 unsafe buses from the roads and put 52 companies running such buses out of business.

The same kind of inspections were done in 2011, prior to the Sky Express bus crash, in which four died and dozens were injured.

Shortly before that May crash, the feds announced that safety inspections ended with “442 unsafe buses and drivers being removed from the nation’s roadways.”

The rogue companies are tough to keep up with. Many have no real base office, other than a home. Even when some are shut down, they often reincarnate under different names.

Overall, it should be said, the bus industry is safe, perhaps the safest mode of mass transit we have. On average, about 20 bus passengers die in bus crashes each year, and that’s among millions of trips annually.

But if you ride, or plan to ride, in a discount bus, you might be risking your life to save a buck. These companies cut corners, all so they can give cheap rides, or, rather, make money giving cheap rides.

The recent federal inspection operation turned up the same old infractions with said bus operators: unsafe vehicles, poorly trained drivers, fatigued drivers (mostly because some of them drive twice as much as any human being should attempt to drive) and the list goes on.

On the bright side, in November the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to require long-haul buses to install seat belts. That’s something safety advocates have touted for years. The law will go into effect in 2016.

One wonders if the “at-risk” bus companies will comply.

If you plan to take a discount bus trip, consider checking the federal motor carrier’s website link that has information on bus companies and what you should check before booking a ticket: fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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