Many people on the East Coast rely on commercial buses to provide low-cost transportation between cities. Unfortunately, many low-cost carriers have troubling safety records.
At the end of May, federal officials shut down 26 bus companies because of “imminent safety hazards.” Many of the carriers operated out of New York City’s Chinatown and traveled to destinations as far away as Florida. A number of the companies had previously been ordered to shut down for safety violations, but simply reopened under different names.
Regulators increased scrutiny of the bus companies because of several fatal crashes in the past few years. Most noteworthy was a crash in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers. The bus was coming back to Chinatown after taking an overnight trip to a Connecticut casino. That company was not involved in the shutdown.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this crackdown was the largest ever brought against American passenger bus operators. The crackdown was also meant to show other low-cost bus companies that if they try to evade safety regulations, they too would be shut down.
Cumulatively, the affected bus companies transported about 1,800 people per day. The vast majority of riders are retirees, college students and people going to casinos. Most riders say they were drawn in by extremely cheap fares. One bus company offered trips between Manhattan and Norfolk, Virginia for about $30, a quarter of what Greyhound Lines charges.
Safety inspectors found that many of these companies did not check the bus drivers’ backgrounds and did not test for drug or alcohol use. Many companies also did not verify whether the bus drivers had the appropriate license.
Hopefully, the federal government’s actions will help make our highways safer for everyone.