The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday concluded an investigation into last February's deadly tour bus crash near San Bernardino. It said that accident — along with fatal crashes in three other states — prompted it to call for a probe of the government agency in charge of making sure commercial vehicles operate safely.
The NTSB reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration failed to properly inspect the vehicles before fatal crashes in Yucaipa, California; Pendleton, Oregon; Elizabethtown, Kentucky and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A total of 25 people were killed; 83 people were injured.
"These are issues that had been well known. There was good data to tell them that there were problems, either with their drivers or with their vehicles, and these problems were not really addressed in an effective way,” said Hersman. “These companies had fatal crashes, lives were lost, people were injured. And it was only after those high visibility crashes that those companies were placed out of business."
In the tour bus crash near San Bernardino last February, seven passengers and a pickup truck driver were killed. Eleven passengers were seriously injured and 22 others received minor to moderate injuries.
The NTSB report shows that all six brakes on the tour bus owned by National City-based company Scapadas Magicas were defective. Drums were worn or cracked, linings were down and some were otherwise “defective or inoperative.”
“[Scapadas Magicas] was a carrier that, 40 percent of the time that they were inspected, their vehicles were placed out of services,” said Hersman. “But when the regulator went to do a review of the carrier on site at their property, they didn’t inspect any vehicles, and they passed the compliance review.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered the immediate shutdown of the company shortly after the fatal crash.
The NTSB said its investigation raises "serious questions" about how well the Motor Carrier Administration is doing its job.
“This is an issue we have been looking at for decades,” said Hersman. “It dates back to recommendations that we made in the 1990s for them to evaluate their reviews and how they characterize carriers as far as the ones that need to be put out of business.”