Pursuant to federal law, commercial vehicles such as motor coaches are required to be inspected at least once per year. The inspections, however, may be performed by the company that operates the vehicle, private garages, or state designated employees. Unfortunately, over half of all states in the U.S. do not specify inspection requirements and leave the matter up to the owner of the vehicle.
On March 14th, 2012, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would require a federal evaluation of state commercial vehicle inspection programs, but the bill has not moved forward in the House of Representatives. The nation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has stated additional federal oversight of state commercial vehicle inspection programs is not currently necessary. The organization’s former head, John Hill, said the FMCSA simply does not have sufficient funding to begin monitoring state inspection programs.
Highway safety proponents believe there is a lack of oversight for companies that perform bus and other commercial vehicle inspections in many states. In fact, fatal bus crashes in Texas, Illinois and Mississippi recently caused the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to call for better oversight of commercial vehicle safety inspections.
Following a 2008 bus crash that killed 17 people near Sherman, Texas, the NTSB cited a state-certified commercial vehicle inspection shop for passing the motor carrier eight days prior to the accident despite reportedly obvious mechanical and tire defects. The owners of the shop, 5 Minute Inspections, closed the company’s doors a few months later. In May 2010, however, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) approved the owners’ application to open another commercial vehicle inspection business in the same neighborhood. According to state records, the new business is currently in good standing.
A spokesperson for DPS stated the issues raised by the NTSB following the crash did not merit action against 5 Minute Inspections although one of the owners has since been suspended for falsifying commercial vehicle inspection reports. DPS has also recently reorganized the more than 200 employees in its vehicle inspection support program.
Another Texas bus was involved in a fatal crash in Louisiana after striking a semi-truck parked on the side of the road. Although the NTSB stated the bus driver caused the crash, the semi was allegedly in such serious disrepair it never should have been on the roadway to begin with. The president of the trucking company performed the most recent inspection on the semi-truck six months prior to the crash.