Report on Curbside Motorcoach Safety

Motorcoach safety has received increased public attention as a result of multiple serious accidents during 2011. The most serious of these accidents occurred on March 12, 2011, in the Bronx borough of New York City. In that accident, a 1999 Prevost motorcoach, operated by World Wide Travel of Greater New York, was traveling along Interstate 95 when it departed the interstate to the right, crossed over an 11-foot shoulder into a roadside barrier, and rolled onto its side. The front of the motorcoach then collided with the support pole for an overhead cantilevered highway sign. Of the 33 occupants aboard the bus, 15 were fatally injured, and 18 received injuries ranging from serious to minor. World Wide Travel was operating a curbside service, making 14 roundtrips daily between the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, and New York City.

The National Transportation Safety Board conducted an investigation of motorcoach safety with a focus on scheduled interstate curbside operations. The objectives of this investigation were to (1) describe the characteristics of the curbside business model among interstate motorcoach carriers; (2) describe the safety record of interstate motorcoach carriers, including those that use a curbside business model; and (3) evaluate the adequacy of safety oversight for motorcoach carriers using a scheduled curbside business model.

No formal definition of curbside carriers exists, and federal and state oversight authorities have no unique categorization and tracking mechanism for these carriers. For the purpose of this investigation, curbside motorcoach operations are those in which interstate motorcoach carriers conduct scheduled trips from one city to another city or a destination and originate or terminate at a location other than a traditional bus terminal; most of these operations pick up or discharge passengers at one or more curbside locations.

The analyses conducted during this investigation accurately depict the results from the comparisons of the various motorcoach carriers defined in this report based on the data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This investigation could not account for uncertainty associated with the identification of curbside carriers or for missing or inaccurate data from FMCSA data sources. Applying these results to different groups of motorcoach carriers would require additional categorization of the motorcoach carrier groups and new analyses.

Of the 4,172 active interstate motorcoach carriers operating in the United States, 71 were identified as scheduled motorcoach carriers providing curbside service. Although accidents among all types of interstate motorcoach carriers (including those applying the curbside business model) are infrequent, curbside carriers have higher fatal accident and death rates and higher out-of-service rates resulting from driver violations (specifically, fatigued driving and driver fitness violations) compared with conventional carriers. Curbside carriers also have higher driver fitness violation rates and out-of-service rates, and they are overrepresented in driver logbook violations. The safety record of individual curbside carriers varies, with some carriers having very good safety records and others having worse safety records.

In addition, the oversight for this segment of the motorcoach industry has several challenges. FMCSA and state investigators are overburdened by the number of inspections and compliance reviews that need to be accomplished to properly assess a motor carrier’s safety performance due to the large number of motor carriers that the investigators have to oversee in addition to motorcoach carriers. The prohibition of routine en route inspections, the minimal requirements for obtaining new operating authority, the inconsistent enforcement of the requirement to submit mileage and other essential information to the FMCSA, and language barriers all indicate that oversight of curbside carriers is more challenging than that for other segments of the motorcoach industry.