Feds crack down on bus lines, trucking companies

Federal regulators are cracking down on truck and bus companies that they say skirt the rules and endanger passengers and drivers on the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced new rules in Wednesday's Federal Register that would make it easier for the agency to shut down commercial vehicle companies with a poor safety history.

The new rules, published on the agency’s website last week, target companies that continually disregard safety rules in order to avoid paying fines.

"Each year, a small number of motor carriers have attempted to avoid regulatory compliance, or mask or otherwise conceal non-compliance, by submitting new applications for registration, often under a different name, to continue operations after being placed out of service," the agency said in the Federal Register.

The agency said the new rules do not apply to "isolated instances" of safety violations, but are instead aimed at repeat and deliberate offenders.

In one such example of "regulatory avoidance," the agency pointed to a bus company that was operating without government approval that crashed in Sherman, Texas, in 2008, and killed 17 passengers.

"The Sherman crash is but one example that demonstrates how the practice of avoiding compliance, or masking or otherwise concealing non-compliance, to circumvent agency enforcement action or to avoid a negative safety compliance history creates an unacceptable risk of harm to the public," the agency said.

The agency already has a vetting process for truck and bus companies, but these new rules will allow the agency to suspend or revoke the operating authority registration of commercial vehicle companies that repeatedly ignore safety rules.

"Although the vetting process was a significant improvement to the previous registration review and regulatory compliance process, it is not a complete solution to the problem of regulatory avoidance, because it does not impose sanctions, and, therefore, deter the motor carriers" from such behavior, the agency said.