After completing its investigation of the tragic bus fire that killed 23 elderly Hurricane Rita evacuees, the National Transportation Safety Board on February 21st called on the Federal Motor Carrier Motor Safety Administration to promulagate stronger safety regulations for buses and large trucks. The FMCMSA is charged with reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. According to the Washington Post:
NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker expressed concern that the [FMCMSA] had not heeded all of [NTSB’s] suggestions in the past. He noted that of more than 60 safety recommendations the NTSB proposed in the past eight years, only 26 have been adopted by the motor carrier agency. “There is outrage when a couple hundred people are killed in aviation fatal accidents, yet you don’t seem to see, share or demonstrate the same outrage when 4,300 people die on our nation’s highways annually,” Rosenker said. “We can make changes here on this board…to chip away piece by piece at the 4,300 people who die on highways.”
…the bus was “mechanically unsafe” when it transported the 44 assisted-living-facility residents from Sunrise Senior Living community in Bellaire, Tex., to Dallas on Interstate 45. The fire started after poorly lubricated wheel bearings overheated in the right rear well, igniting a tire, investigators found. Last month, a U.S. District Court in McAllen, Tex., sentenced the owner of Global Limo…to five years’ probation for poorly managing his fleet and not requiring all drivers to fill out vehicle inspection reports. A government investigation [of Global Limo] found 168 alleged violations involving four other buses in Global Limo’s fleet. The bus involved in the fatal accident near Dallas had an illegal license plate, and its driver did not have a valid U.S. driver’s license.
So why would the federal motor carrier agency ignore NTSB safety recommendations aimed at decreasing injury and death caused by bus and large truck accidents? It’s the same old story-the heads of most federal agencies appointed by the Bush administration are former lobbyists, executives, or lawyers for the very industries that the agency is supposed to regulate. The foxes are guarding the chicken coop. This is true at the FDA, the CDC, the EPA, the CPSC and many other federal agencies where rules are being written not to protect consumers from dangerous drugs or products, but to protect manufacturers from lawsuits.