Bus safety needs to be a top priority for Congress

When a passenger steps on board a bus to begin a trip they need to know that the bus they are on is safe and in good working order, the driver has met all the current certifications and the bus company is reputable and operates within the law.

On June 13, I, along with Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro and three others, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about ways to make bus travel safer. We at the American Bus Association are working closely with members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, the FMCSA and all other interested parties as Congress continues its work on the new, six-year transportation reauthorization bill.

In recent months there have been several high-profile accidents, which regrettably involve the loss of life and could have been prevented. In the aftermath of these accidents, FMCSA declared five bus companies to be an imminent safety hazard to the public, and the government has ordered those five shut down. We salute this effort, and urge the FMCSA to continue its effort to find these illegal companies and take whatever action is necessary to get these buses off the road.

As president and CEO of the American Bus Association, I am here to tell you that all bus companies are not created or operated equally, and the members of our association have a deep and unshakable commitment to safety. In many cases our members are small and medium-sized family businesses that have been operated in a professional, dependable and safe manner for many, many years and they are proud of their well-deserved reputations for safety and integrity.

The ABA and our members are appalled by the actions of a small handful of people who are damaging the reputation of an entire industry. These illegal operators are not members of the ABA. In order to become and stay a member of the ABA, a bus company must have a satisfactory Department of Transportation rating, and the ABA strongly encourages our members to obey all of the state and federal laws and use best practices when it comes to the important issues such as bus maintenance and driver performance and fatigue.

The FMCSA and the states need more resources to do their jobs. Sky Express was one of the companies declared an imminent safety hazard. Yet, in late May an accident involving one of its buses left four people dead. After its operating authority was revoked, federal officials say the company tried to stay in business by using other names and repainting its buses. Sky Express had one of the worst Department of Transportation Safety records, in the bottom 1 percent when it came to the driver fitness category; in the last two years, its drivers were cited 17 times for unsafe driving violations. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, buses are the safest form of surface transportation available, exceeding trains and cars. Our members take great pride in what they do, offering the public a safe and affordable way to get from place to place, and because of that strong commitment to safety, the number of people riding on buses is steadily increasing to now more than 750 million passenger trips annually, equal to the number of people who fly on commercial airlines. 

Because of our commitment to safety, the ABA is concerned about one proposal being discussed as part of the reauthorization bill, and it involves unscheduled roadside inspections of buses, while passengers are being transported. Our first concern is for passenger safety and comfort, and roadside inspections cannot accommodate passenger needs for air conditioning, heating, restrooms, food service or waiting areas. In addition roadside inspections do not allow for any accommodations in regards to passengers with disabilities. ABA cannot support stopping of vehicles at random, as enforcement actions must be targeted and based on cause. 

Numerous studies have shown that if we can get the illegal bus companies off the road, before they pick up passengers, the industry can make even bigger strides in safety.

We would encourage anyone who is considering a trip by bus to go to our website, www.buses.org, or www.safersys.org, a website run by FMCSA, to get more information about a specific carrier they’re considering. 

Washington, D.C.

Wars should be fought only for nation’s security

From Timothy Monroe Bledsoe

I watched the president’s address to the nation about the planned drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand that 10,000 troops are to be home by the end of this year, and 33,000 total will be home by next summer. As a lifelong U.S. citizen, I would like to say the following about these two wars and how they relate to our nation’s history:

I truly believe that fighting World War 1 and World War 2 was absolutely necessary to our nation’s security. I truly do not believe that fighting in Korea, Vietnam, or Kuwait was necessary to the security of our nation. If my understanding of the history of these wars is correct, Korea and Vietnam was fought to prevent the spread of communism to South Korea and South Vietnam. The war in Kuwait was fought to drive Saddam Hussein out of a country that he wrongly invaded. Considering that these three countries are so, so far from the U.S., I do not see how these wars were even conceivably or remotely fought to protect our nation’s security! Now, the over-paid, under-worked, and clueless government officials in Washington, D.C., are continuing to force tens of thousands of American troops into harm’s way for absolutely no good reason.

It is well past time for our “so-called government officials” to stop being war-mongers and bring all of our troops home to safety and their families where they all belong.

North Augusta, S.C.