On Tuesday, a tragic accident in Virginia forced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to fundamentally alter protocol regarding Out-of-Service orders for commercial motor carriers and passenger motorcoach companies.
A SkyExpress bus filled with passengers traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to New York City’s Chinatown, suddenly veered off Interstate 95 in Virgina. The bus hit an embankment, flipped, and crashed onto its roof. Four passengers were killed and over 50 were injured. The only person who was uninjured, and the only one with a seat belt, was the driver, whom the Virginia State Patrol believe fell asleep at the wheel.
The FMCSA was heavily scrutinized and chastised by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. It was revealed that SkyExpress had been issued an unsatisfactory rating on April 12, and the FMCSA would have shut down the company last Saturday, May 28th. The FMCSA granted a 10-day extension for the company to appeal its decision. The fatal collision on Tuesday occurred on the 4th day of that extension. Secretary LaHood issued a statement today stating, “On my watch, there will never be another extension granted to a carrier we believe is unsafe.” The bus company had been involved in previous collisions within the last 24 months and had also received poor ratings for driver fitness, fatigued driving, and overall unsafe driving.
This latest accident comes almost three months after a fatal bus accident in the Bronx, in which 15 passengers were killed. As a result, the FMCSA conducted over 2800 “spot checks” and pulled 10% of drivers/vehicles off the road. Such tragic accidents show that a lot remains to be done by the federal government in order to ensure the safety of passengers as well as the driving public.