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Feds scrutinize intercity bus operators

Intercity bus companies are coming under scrutiny from federal regulators for safety violations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced Monday it is considering annual inspections for so-called curbside bus operators that the agency says have a history of skirting safety requirements and are more likely to be involved in crashes.

Currently, most intercity buses like Greyhound are required to undergo safety fitness assessments only once every three years. The FMCSA expressed concern about curbside bus companies that drop passengers off on street corners, rather than at a city’s main bus station. The agency says it is particularly concerned that curbside bus drivers are more likely to skirt fatigue rules and endanger their passengers.

The FMCSA is looking to put these curbside bus operators through annual safety fitness assessments, it said Monday in the Federal Register. The inspections would not apply to traditional bus operators like Greyhound or public transportation buses, but they could hit companies such as Megabus and BoltBus.

"Motorcoach safety received increased public attention after several serious crashes during 2011, some of which involved 'curbside' bus operators, passenger carrier operations often characterized by high passenger loads with service between urban areas,” the agency wrote.

The focus on curbside bus operators was prompted by a 2011 study from the National Transportation Safety Board, which found these buses are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents due to driver fatigue. 

Sean Hughes, the director of corporate affairs for Megabus.com North America, said the bus operator follows "the most stringent safety standards in the industry."

"Megabus.com requires more hours off between shifts than is required by the federal and state regulators, has seat belts on our buses since 2007, and has had GPS tracking on all of our buses since 2006. These are some of multiple precautionary steps Megabus.com takes to ensure our passengers are safe and far exceed both federal and state requirements.

"Megabus.com looks forward to offering additional best practice suggestions to the regulator during this rule making process that will continue to make sure our employees, customers, pedestrians and other vehicles are safe," Hughes said.

The public has 60 days to comment about the FMSCA proposal.

- This story was corrected on Feb. 10 to reflect that the FMSCA is considering new inspections for all intercity bus operators.