How safe are Texas roads and highways for bus travel? How safe are the motorcoaches that operate in Texas? Are our state and national regulatory agencies doing enough to protect the lives and limbs of our citizens?
These questions have all been asked since last August, when a serious bus crash in Sherman, Texas claimed the lives of 17 people and injured another 38. Over the last year the accident has been under investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently published their findings.
Last August the 56-passenger motorcoach containing 55 passengers and one driver crashed while traveling from Houston, Tx. to Carthage, Mo. The bus crashed through a bridge railing on northbound U.S. Highway 75, fell about 8 feet and slid on its right side before stopping. Investigations into the incident have focused on mechanical and maintenance problems with the bus as well as lax state and federal oversight of motorcoach operation in the United States.
Mechanical and roadway safety issues
According to the investigators the probable causes of the Sherman, Texas motorcoach accident include:
- An extended period of low-tire pressure operation, which led to
- Failure of the right steer axle tire, which led to
- The sidewall, belting and body ply of the tire separating, which led to
- Loss of vehicle control.
In addition, the bridge on which the bus was traveling failed to redirect the bus when it hit the railing. Instead of being redirected, the bus careened over the side of the bridge, crashing below and seriously injuring and killing its passengers. Lastly, the passengers were killed and badly injured in the bus crash in part because the vehicle lacked an adequate occupant protection system, and escape and rescue efforts were impeded by the motorcoach’s luggage rack.
State and federal oversight safety issues
How can state and federal oversight of motorcoach operations prevent another accident like the one in Sherman? The report cites the following issues that, if addressed, would make bus travel safer for all Americans:
- Detect and shut down “rogue” bus operators (often bus companies shut down for failure to meet standards will simply reopen under a new name, without addressing their deficiencies. Some companies also continue to operate despite having numerous safety or operational deficiencies).
- Ensure that only carriers authorized to travel interstate are able to cross state lines (the carrier involved in the Sherman crash, Iguala BusMex, did not have the authority to travel outside of Texas).
- Ensure that states provide sufficient oversight of state-approved private inspection facilities; failing this, allow greater federal authority over such facilities (the bus that crashed in Sherman was inspected 8 days before the accident by a Houston company that missed several deficiencies, and did not even have the equipment necessary for a thorough inspection. The Houston inspection company is under the oversight of the Texas Department of Public Safety, whose lax oversight of such companies was also criticized in the report).
- Better oversight of new entrant motor carriers. A stepped-up licensing “gateway” would ensure that new motor carriers meet all state and federal requirements for operation.
The Sherman bus crash is a complicated case, but the bottom line is tighter oversight and a crackdown on negligent motorcoach carriers and drivers are needed to prevent accidents as horrific and tragic as this one.
For help after a Texas bus, truck or auto accident, please contact the Houston based experienced personal injury attorneys VB Attorneys