Charter bus safety scrutinized - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Charter bus safety scrutinized

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Safety issues have parked 52 bus companies nationwide. Federal bus safety regulators found a number of serious violations in those companies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that these companies were shut-down because they "put safety by the wayside in order to compete in a very tight market."

Some of these offenses include hiring drivers with suspended licenses, as well as having drivers who have made routes of at least 800 miles without rest.

None of the companies listed are in Alabama.

However, it's important to note that the companies listed are not just low-cost bus lines. Some of these companies have transported travel groups, students, senior citizens among others. Nationwide, nearly 700 million passengers travel using the motor coach industry. That's almost the same as domestic airlines.

Here in Alabama. Some of the local coach companies say they make it a point to drug test all of their drivers, and keep tabs on the number of hours and miles their drivers log each trip.  The companies face random fleet inspections by the state, and must meet the guidelines set by the federal transit administration.

Roy Young owns a charter bus company in Helena. His fleet may not be the biggest, but he wants it to be the safest.

Young says, "We check the tires, make sure they got the right amount of air in them. (We) check the belts, be sure they aren't dry rotting. Make sure we have plenty of oil in (the buses) and transmission fluid. We do an inspection around the whole bus, make sure everything is in working order."

Young believes the most important check. However, is the driver's background.

"The first thing we do is make sure our drivers are certified. We do a drug test. We do an MVR on them. (We) go back three years, sometimes even five years to make sure they don't have any accidents (on their record)."

Young tells me his company undergoes random state inspections to make sure each bus is up to code. He proudly displays the results of each inspection.

"We make sure that when our vehicles go out there, that they are in the best of shape. We know things happen, because anything man-made, anything can happen, but we want to make sure we do our part," says Young.

In recent months, charter bus companies nationwide have gone under the microscope due to several accidents.

Cynthia Houser frequently travels via Megabus, a low-cost coach service that makes trips out of Birmingham to several major cities.

She's not concerned when embarking on her journey.

She says, "(With) everything in life, you're going to encounter problems sometimes. That's life."

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