Thousands of surprise passenger carrier safety inspections conducted

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the removal of 289 unsafe passenger buses or drivers as a result of 2,782 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections the agency recently conducted nationwide over a nine-day period with state and local law enforcement partners.

FMCSA says the unannounced inspections took place from March 28 through April 6 as part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen passenger carrier safety nationwide. The coordinated enforcement strike force issued out-of-service violation citations to 156 drivers and 262 vehicles.

Previously, from March 12 to March 28, an estimated 3,000 passenger carrier safety inspections were conducted across the country, resulting in nearly 300 passenger carrier vehicles being put out of service during the 17-day timeframe.

“We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to shut down unsafe passenger bus companies that place motorists at risk and remove drivers from our roads who put passengers in harm’s way,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

In addition to the strike force inspections, FMCSA and state safety investigators initiated 95 full safety compliance reviews on commercial passenger bus companies. These reviews determine a passenger carrier’s safety rating.

“Working side-by-side with our state and local law enforcement partners, we can ensure that every passenger bus company and driver operates as safely as possible,” says FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “These strike force activities are one of the many effective tools we use year-round to raise the safety bar for commercial buses and drivers on our nation’s roadways.”

FMCSA says it has significantly increased the number of safety inspections and compliance reviews the agency conducts on the nation’s estimated 3,700 registered motor coach companies; the number of roadside safety inspections of motorcoaches has doubled from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, while compliance reviews on motorcoach companies more than doubled from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. Passenger fatalities have decreased from 57 in 2004 to 46 in 2009, a 19 percent reduction.

In 2009, the Obama administration sought to make long-needed improvements to motorcoach safety through a new Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed rules that will require buses to have seatbelts and electronic onboard recorders to replace paper records of driver hours and determine how best to strengthen driver heath requirements and enforcement programs.

Last year, DOT also sought to curb distracted driving incidents by adopting a regulation banning commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel and initiating a rulemaking to ban handheld mobile phone use.