When one part of the federal government publicly criticizes another over its failure to act on public safety threats, that says something about the seriousness of those threats. One recent example involves the dangers of commercial motor vehicle crashes.
On November 7, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a press release taking to task the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) oversight of the nation’s commercial trucking and motorcoach industries. The NTSB is an independent federal government agency charged with investigating civil aviation accidents and other catastrophic transportation accidents. The FMCSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation whose primary mission is to prevent deaths and injuries resulting from commercial vehicle crashes.
So why is the NTSB publicly calling for audits of how the FMCSA carries out its mission?
Multiple Deaths in Truck and Bus Crashes
The NTSB is concerned about how thoroughly the FMCSA investigates questionable truck and bus operators. The agency cites as evidence four recent accidents involving tractor-trailers and commercial buses, which resulted in 25 deaths.
- A motorcoach slid off an icy Oregon roadway, killing nine occupants
- The driver of a motorcoach in California lost control of the bus as it descended down a hill. The bus hit several other vehicles, killing seven bus passengers and one person in another vehicle.
- A truck driver approaching traffic on a Kentucky highway failed to brake in time, killing six passengers in another vehicle
- In Tennessee, a commercial truck plowed into eight other vehicles that slowed in front of it, killing two passengers in the vehicles
Besides the tragic outcomes, these commercial motor-vehicle crashes had something else in common: the operators of the trucks and buses were under FMCSA scrutiny – but no punitive actions were taken prior to the fatal accidents.
The companies and/or the drivers had been found to be in breach of federal safety regulations, ranging from improper maintenance to hours-of service violations, which may have resulted infatigued drivers. Further investigations following the crashes resulted in the FMCSA ordering two of the operators to cease business. But by then the damage was done.
We count on the federal government to fulfill its responsibilities for keeping us safe. But that’s not to dismiss the negligent actions of truck and bus drivers and their employers in Missouri, Illinois or any other state. When they’re responsible for deaths on the roadway, they should be held accountable to their victims. That is the role of attorneys experienced in investigating fatal truck and bus accidents.