Regulations

Policing The Party Bus: How Do You Ensure Safety?

Posted on July 23, 2013 by

Page 1 of 3

The same day a stretch limousine fire claimed five lives in San Francisco, a bachelorette party headed down Interstate 35 in Kansas City in the Midnight Express Party Bus. When the bus hit a bump while rounding a curve, one passenger, 26-year-old Jamie Frecks, tumbled through the rear doors and into oncoming traffic. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
 
Such stories convey heartbreaking personal tragedies. But they’re especially troubling to legitimate chauffeured transportation operators — those who maintain their vehicles and go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to ensuring passenger safety. That’s because they know that while every accident can’t be prevented, the risk of passenger injury or death can be minimized.  

Here are some details that investigative news coverage by the Kansas City Star has revealed about the accident. The details sum up all the recent problems and challenges facing the party bus market: The vehicle, owned by Midnight Express Party Bus Service, was operating illegally. It did not have a U.S. Department of Transportation number as required by Kansas law. Midnight Express did not obtain a business license from Kansas City or other local municipalities. The vehicle’s “door ajar” warning system was not working for the doors that Frecks fell through. Wheelchair-loading equipment had been removed from these doors after a 2010 auction of the 14-year-old, Ford E-450 Super Duty municipal shuttle bus, according to the Kansas City Star investigation. Federal regulators ordered the company to shut down in early June.

Of course, to obtain a Department of Transportation number, an operator must carry proper insurance and meet safety requirements, which include keeping records of vehicle maintenance and inspection. Without any DOT inspections, safety issues had little chance of being red flagged.

The problem is that many companies attempt to fly under the radar, rightly suspecting that agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration don’t have the resources to inspect all 7,000-plus limousine companies, says Tom Holden, director of operations for Rose Chauffeured Transportation of Charlotte, N.C. “Unfortunately so many companies look at this and say, ‘Hey, nobody bothers me, I’m a limo company, I’m a van company. Nobody’s ever pulled me over before. Nobody’s ever come to do an audit.’”

The collective grievance within the legitimate sector is that unsafe vehicles and careless operators damage the industry overall. “These fly-by-night operations don’t play by the rules,” says David Bakare, president and owner of Executive Coach Builders of Springfield, Mo. “They don’t worry about safety and if we don’t do something about it, they’re going to bring the whole industry down. It’s not enough that 80%-90% of operators are compliant. The other 10% are going to give the industry a black eye.”

Many operators believe they should report poorly built and maintained limo buses. When full of rowdy party bus passengers, they can lead to tragic accidents, Holden says. “The federal government needs to step in. Currently all they’re doing is telling you to go to the website, file an anonymous report, and we’ll catch them eventually. Well, eventually is most of the time too late. It really does require us, as serious operators, to continually police our own industry. And that’s not a word that most companies want to hear.”

“People should feel that they have the obligation to report when they see something illegal,” Bakare says. “You may think “that’s not my problem,” but when some accident happens, it does affect everybody and becomes your problem. We can’t just sit back and wait for the next accident, because the next one could be the big one that’s actually going to bring the federal regulators in.”

Marketing Safety  
The problem isn’t just rogue operators eluding the DOT. It’s that they often fail to ensure the safety of their passengers, while undercutting the prices of legit operators by avoiding the costs of safety on their bottom line. Customers often don’t know about the wide variety in limo bus quality, ranging from OEM-certified vehicles to roughshod one-offs.

Safety must come first, but often clients don’t want to pay for it, shopping only for the lowest rate, Bakare says. “We have to make sure we educate our clients and they educate their clients as well to say, ‘Look, you may be getting $10 to $20 an hour cheaper from that other guy, but here’s the risk you take.’”

View comments or post a comment on this story. (2 Comments)

More News

Classifying Uber's Business Model: A Complicated Affair

Governments have every right to regulate a digital platform that arranges rides and provides work for its citizens.

Industry Leaders Adjust Political Agenda For Trump Era

The NLA is sizing up a post-Nov. 8 legislative and regulatory scene that could yield breakthroughs as well as new unknowns.

Mass. TNC Drivers Face Background Checks Sooner

The state will conduct Criminal Offender Record Information and Sex Offender Registry Information background checks and consult motor vehicles records.

What Will Trump's Transportation Pick Mean For TNCs?

Department of Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao has shown friendliness to the gig economy.

Airports Add Surcharges for Limos, Taxis, And TNCs

Officials at most airports were reluctant to explain why they charged the fees except that doing so helps keep airport costs down.

See More News

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (2)

Post a Comment

Submit

Blogs

See More

See More

See More

See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - December 2016 $12.95 GLOBAL/INTERNATIONAL ISSUE COVER STORY: * The Coolest Operators on the Planet * *



Connect

Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close