DOT_Logo_150px WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced Dec. 12 that 52 bus companies and 340 vehicles were put out of business and removed from the road as a result of Operation Quick Strike, an eight-month intensified effort to shut down unsafe motorcoach companies.

“Bus travel is increasingly popular because it is a convenient, inexpensive option for students, groups and families,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “But it must also be safe. Through Operation Quick Strike and our regular enforcement efforts, we’re shutting down companies that put passengers at risk and educating the public on safe motorcoach travel.”

The intensified effort was part of FMCSA’s three-phase Motorcoach Safety Initiative to raise the bar for safety in the motorcoach industry and to strengthen the agency’s oversight methods. More than 50 specially trained investigators were dispatched from April through November to conduct in-depth reviews into the patterns and practices of the 250 most at-risk motorcoach companies, identified using roadside inspection and safety data.

As a result:

  • 214 top-to-bottom compliance investigations were completed*;
  • 20 motorcoach companies were immediately shut down for violations and posing an imminent hazard to the public;
  • 32 companies were issued “Unsatisfactory” safety ratings and shut down after failing to remedy critical and acute violations;
  • 28 companies took corrective action to fix the safety violations investigators uncovered to avoid being shut down; and
  • 340 vehicles, of the more than 1,300 vehicles that were inspected during the investigations, were put out-of-service for safety and maintenance violations.
  • Company-wide failures to adequately maintain their buses, inadequate drug and alcohol driver testing programs and widespread hours-of-service violations were among the reasons companies were shut down.

In addition, inspectors assessed the levels of safety for more than 1,300 carriers that had minimal inspection history or data with the agency. More than 240 have been targeted for follow-up investigations.

“This year we evaluated and enhanced our investigation methods to dig deeper than ever before and uncover dangerous patterns of unsafe behavior and business practices,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Now we are training all investigators to utilize the new tactics we employed during Operation Quick Strike, and encourage everyone who travels by bus to ‘Look Before You Book’ using the safety information on our website.”

Travelers and trip planners are encouraged to visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/LookBeforeYouBook for tips and resources before buying a bus ticket or chartering a bus for a group trip. There they can find FMCSA’s free SaferBus mobile app for a quick and free way to review a bus company’s safety record, find multi-language check lists and report any safety violations.

Resources can also be found on FMCSA’s new “Look Before You Book” bus safety hub on Facebook.com/FMCSA.

*More than 30 companies had since transitioned to intrastate-only service, which FMCSA does not regulate, or had gone out of business.

We know all too well that alcohol consumption and drug use can imperil our jobs.

But how about off the job; and how about family members?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 600,000 emergency room visits annually due to alcohol or drug problems; and that count represents but one-third of all misuse of alcohol or drugs.

In the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to:

  • Liver, heart and brain damage; and severe over indulgence of alcohol can induce dementia or other mental illness.
  • Bad judgment, poor coordination, blackouts, loss of memory, nausea, hangovers, headaches, coma and suicide.
  • Birth defects, including learning disabilities. That is why pregnant women are warned not to consume alcohol during pregnancies.

Be aware that 40 percent of alcoholism is related to genetics and is inherited.

Note the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse:

  • Craving alcohol
  • Drinking alone
  • Inability to reduce or stop drinking
  • Hiding alcohol in secret places
  • Violent episodes or becoming angry when confronted about drinking habits
  • Sleeping for long periods of time
  • Feeling anxious in social situations and experiencing feelings of guilt
  • Poor eating habits

You and/or your family members can get help in treating alcohol and drug abuse.

United Behavioral Health offers 24-hour confidential telephone counseling at (866) 850-6212, and the website www.liveandworkwell.com can provide you with more information on alcohol and drug abuse.

And keep in mind that those in safety sensitive transportation jobs face a good likelihood of being randomly tested for alcohol and drug use:

The U.S. Department of Transportation set the following test rates for 2011:

  • For bus drivers, the random drug testing rate is 50 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
  • For airline workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
  • For rail workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
  • For transit workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.