Bus operators fight crackdown related to limo crash

Bus travel is one of the safest forms of transportation, and New York operators are currently the most stringently regulated in the country. Charging them for state inspections takes things too far, representatives of bus and motorcoach operators testified recently.

A May 2 hearing at the state capital in Albany was called to discuss improvements in the safety of limousines, which have been a concern since fatal crashes in 2015 and 2018. Bus operators used the chance to criticize the unfairness of the state’s new $85 fee for twice annual mandatory inspections, and to show the differences between buses and limos.

“Although it may seem a small fee, it adds just one more financial burden of doing business in New York State,” said Camilla Morris, president of the Bus Association of New York. “And to be honest, it has nothing to do with safety in the least.”

The bus industry already is one of the most regulated industries in the country, Morris noted in her testimony—by federal and state governments—yet traveling by bus is one of the safest forms of transportation. Buses are subject to New York State inspections every six months in addition to federal inspections and audits. Meanwhile, it provides impressive economic benefits.

“There were 605 million passenger trips with 1.5 billion miles traveled, and the direct economic impact of motorcoach travel and tourism is almost $89 billion,” she said.

Glenn Every, president of the BUS4NYC coalition, also testified, saying that in 2017, of the 37,133 highway fatalities on the nation’s highways, less than 20 were attributable to motorcoach buses.

“In addition, our vehicles are subject to roadside inspections by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and they, too, will take a vehicle out of service if it fails to meet federal safety standards. These inspections occur randomly and frequently,” Every said.

The 2020 state budget imposed stiffer regulations and penalties on the limousine industry as well as a bus inspection fee. (Vehicles owned by school districts or operated with government subsidies are exempt.) That followed an October 2018 limousine crash near Schoharie that killed 20 people. It was subsequently found that the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion was on the road after failing two safety inspections in the months preceding the accident, in which the limousine inexplicably raced through an intersection into a wooded embankment.

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