Sen. Schumer wants letter safety grades posted on buses

NEW YORK CITY — Calls for new safety regulations on charter buses following a deadly crash in Queens have spread to the federal level, with an influential senator calling for operators to post safety ratings on bus windshields.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, is urging the federal government to change a 2012 bus safety rating law to include a letter grading system for buses.

Under that law, bus companies have received one of three safety ratings — satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory — from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Schumer wants those ratings converted to letter grades — A, B and C — and the grades posted on bus windshields similar to the grades required by New York City in the windows of bars and restaurants.

Schumer joins several other New York politicians who have called for increased regulations following a September crash involving a charter bus and city transit bus. Three people died in the crash, including the charter bus driver, a passenger on the transit bus and a pedestrian.

The Dahlia Group, which owns the charter bus accused of causing the crash, has a checkered safety record, and the driver had been fired from the New York transit agency after receiving a DUI in another state.

The New York state senate recently released a report showing that nearly half of the private charter bus companies in New York City had unsafe driving violations, with some of them having safety ratings worse than Dahlia.

That led Schumer to release a statement calling for enforcement of the safety rating law.

“On the heels of the terrible Dahlia crash and new information that shows there are other bad actors out on the streets, some worse than Dahlia, your gut reaction is to ask what more can be done to prevent these kinds of crashes and improve the culture of safety,” Schumer said. “But in this case, we have a law I passed in 2012 that can not only help solve this problem, but can better inform the public, too.

“That is why I am asking the federal Department of Transportation to hit the gas on a federal letter-grade system for private bus companies. The companies that spend money to ensure a culture of safety will rise to the top, and the bad actors who disregard the value of safety and human life will fail to survive unless they improve.

Despite its past safety violations, the FMCSA website rated Dahlia as “satisfactory” for safety based on recent compliance reviews. That would equate with an ‘A’ under Schumer’s proposed grading system.

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