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Bus Regulator Must Do More to Stop Rogues, Watchdog Says

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. intercity-bus regulator must do a better job identifying unsafe operators and prevent them from reincarnating under different names after being shut down, a government watchdog said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the regulators of long-distance buses and commercial trucks, needs to improve screening of applicants to run bus companies to keep “reincarnated” carriers out of the market, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel said in a report released today.

Scovel’s agency conducted its review after the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the bus regulator beef up its enforcement of motorcoach buses, following fatal crashes by companies that had been flagged for safety defects. The agency has promised to improve.

“FMCSA must follow through on the actions it has proposed and continue seeking an acceptable approach to addressing the safety oversight gap NTSB identified,” Scovel said in the report.

The safety board, which has no regulatory authority, called for bus-safety oversight improvements after a 2008 bus crash near Victoria, Texas, that killed one passenger and injured 47 others.

I-95 Crash

In March 2011, 15 people died when a bus run by World Wide Travel of Greater New York headed to Manhattan’s Chinatown from a Connecticut casino overturned on Interstate 95. Two months later, a bus operated by Sky Express Inc. crashed outside Richmond, Virginia, killing four passengers, while the company was in a 10-day reprieve from a shutdown order from the FMCSA.

Both of those crashes occurred during the inspector general’s review, which was from December 2010 until February.

Until a rule the FMCSA proposed last year is finalized, the report found bus companies such as the one in the Victoria crash “may be able to circumvent FMCSA oversight by establishing a lease agreement with another carrier and conducting business using the other carrier’s operating authority.”

The regulator is seeking more authority from Congress by more clearly defining “whether a new carrier is a reincarnation of an old, unsafe carrier,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said in the agency’s response to the report.

“The FMCSA continues to make improvements to passenger carrier safety,” she wrote. “Working with Congress, the bus industry, oversight organizations and an empowered and informed American public, we are using all available avenues to make passenger carrier travel as safe as possible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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