SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, along with the California Bus Association, Hmong Women’s Heritage Association, and families of the tragic Oct. 5, 2008 Colusa bus crash last week introduced a “one strike and you are out” bill to crack down on dangerous charter buses.
Assembly Bill 636, sponsored by the California Bus Association, would permanently rescind licenses for both bus companies and drivers for failure to comply with safety and licensing regulations.
“Right now, the penalties for charter buses and drivers who are not properly licensed and not safe are far too low,” Jone said. “They do not act as a deterrent for fly-by-night, rogue bus companies from continuing operation, and they do not prevent disasters like the one that occurred in October from happening.”
Following that crash, which took the lives of 10 people and injured nearly 40 others, investigative reports revealed the dangers of the growing underground bus industry.
Fly-by-night charter bus companies have sprung up which operate with a complete disregard for the laws governing them. In the case of the Colusa crash, neither the bus nor the driver had the legal right to be on the road that evening. The owners of the bus had designated it as non-operational with DMV, while the bus driver had not been issued the necessary endorsement to be transporting passengers.
“AB 636 is the first step in stopping these bad operators who insist on breaking the law everyday. This bill is greatly needed if we are to keep the motoring public safe,” stated Chris Riddington, Board President of the California Bus Association.
Hmong Women’s Heritage Association Executive Director Koua Jacklyn Franz said “Even as we stand here today, some of the victims are still in the hospital, some can no longer walk, and many will need physical therapy for the rest of their lives.” Franz has been working closely with the families of the October 5th bus crash victims. Nine of those killed in the crash were elders from Sacramento’s Hmong and Mien communities.
Specifically, AB 636 calls for permanent revocation of a driver’s license if found without the proper licensing, and of a bus company’s authority to operate if they knowingly hire such a driver. It would also require CHP to impound a bus that is found in violation upon inspection.
“The tragic loss of 10 of my constituents to a rogue bus operator demonstrates the need for the ‘one strike and you are out’ approach,” said Jones. “I have no patience for those who undercut the process, thumbing their nose at regulations, and making things unsafe for us all.”