NTSB: Cheapo Buses 7 Times More Likely To Kill Passengers

The last decade has seen a huge increase in the number of people opting for discount long-distance buses that pick passengers up at curbside over more traditional bus services operating out of terminals. But a new study from the National Transportation Safety Board says you’re seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal incident when you go for that lower-cost option.

The NTSB study was requested by NY Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez after a March 12, 2011, bus crash in the Bronx killed 15 and injured 18.

Among the findings:

*The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was 7 times that of conventional bus operations: 1.4 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for curbside carriers compared with 0.2 fatal accidents per 100 vehicles for conventional scheduled carriers.

*The exclusion of buses from routine enroute inspections – especially of curbside carriers that don’t operate from terminals – reduces opportunities to discover safety violations.

*Bus driver fatigue, a contributing factor in many accidents, is a continuing safety concern.

*There is a lack of transparency in ticket sales. More than conventional carriers, curbside operators use online bus brokers. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has no authority to regulate these brokers.

NTSB does say that, “in general, motorcoach travel is safe. However, curbside carriers with ten or fewer buses AND carriers who have been in business for ten years or less, have higher accident rates and higher roadside inspection violation rates.”

“It’s abundantly clear that the oversight of this industry has not kept pace with its growth and the consequences have been deadly,” said Senator Schumer. “The NTSB report is a wake-up call that we need a more rigorous regulatory regime and it provides a blueprint for how to fill the gaps.”

“When travelers board a bus, they should feel safe, whether the trip starts in a terminal or at a Chinatown sidewalk,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “The NTSB study has revealed important information about curbside motorcoach travel and, in the coming weeks, we’ll need to continue working to improve the safety regulations that govern this growing industry.”

NTSB study shows rapid growth of curbside carriers poses challenges for effective safety oversight [NTSB.gov]