Saturday, November 05, 2005

Busloads of trouble

San Antonio Express-News:Fatal Bus Fire Raises Accountability Issues
Last month's bus fire that killed 23 elderly nursing home patients who were being evacuated from Houston to escape Hurricane Rita left plenty of blame to go around.
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Global Limo Inc. was allowed to continue operations despite the fact that its drivers had been found in violation of federal safety regulations numerous times in the past two years. Gutierrez alone had been stopped by DPS troopers three times in the seven months before the accident, the Washington Post reported.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an arm of the U.S. Transportation Department, also failed in its job to protect the public from unsafe transportation companies.

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It is inexcusable that federal agents would allow Global to maintain a satisfactory rating although, media reports revealed, its driver safety record was 97 on a 100-point scale — with 100 being the worst.

After the bus fire, a review of Global's fleet by federal inspectors found 168 violations of federal safety regulations, the majority relating to upkeep of its vehicles, according to the Washington Post. The review prompted federal regulators to shut down the company after it was deemed a hazard to the public.


The U of Wi (Eau Claire) Spectator

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the Oct. 16 bus crash that killed five and injured 30 found that two of the six brakes on the bus were out of adjustment.

Under these conditions, Lauren Peduzzi, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said the bus should not have been on the road because it violated the state's Department of Transportation regulations and raised safety issues.

"That would have been enough to place the bus out of service," Peduzzi said. "You never want a bus on the road (in those conditions)."

The NTSB also found the bus driver, Paul Rasmus, 78, of Chippewa Falls, was not wearing his eyeglasses during the crash, despite the requirement on his driver's license.

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Even with these findings, however, Peduzzi said there still is not enough evidence to prove these factors could have prevented the crash.

"We have to figure out at what point was the (the truck) visible to the driver and, based on that, how much reaction time he would have had and how long it would have taken him to stop," she said.

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It's just sad.

Global Limo had an unlicensed driver at the wheel of a very poorly maintained Bus.

A trucker with a Suspended License (granted it was suspended for a bad check, but the underlying offense 72 in a 55 [if in a commercial vehicle] is a suspension offense for a CDL driver in Indiana) runs off the road and runs along the shoulder for several hundred feet before jackknifing (and claims he wasn't asleep) and is struck by a bus with out of adjustment brakes driven by a guy who isn't wearing his glasses.

Brakes being out of adjustment is a common problem in Air Brakes. Late Model Air Brake Equipped Vehicles are equipped with automatic slack adjusters but those only work when there is a firm application of the brakes, if you are a cautious driver and do not do a lot of panic brake applications (and don't frequently do a "pump down" of the brake system) then they may not be in adjustment when you need them. There's lots of Safety Gear out there but it's only as good as it is maintained.

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