After a Sky Express bus went out of control and crashed last week, killing four women and injuring 54 people, Virginia State Police are conducting motor carrier safety checks in Dumfries.
The roadcheck was the backdrop for a nationwide enforcement effort for trucks and buses.
The Sky Express bus had been traveling northbound on Interstate 95 in Caroline County, Va., when it swerved off the road and landed on its roof. The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, reportedly admitted to Virginia State Police investigators that he fell asleep at the wheel.
Federal officials ordered Sky Express, based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, to cease all bus operation. Two days after the order, law enforcement officials discovered that Sky Express had repainted its buses and was using different names in an attempt to continue to operate.
“That's a failure of the system and the system's got to change,” said Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association.
Tracking bad bus companies difficult for police, agency
The government agency charged with preventing motor vehicle-related fatalities and ensuring motor-carrier safety is looking for more oversight authority.
“We're seeking technical assistance from Congress to strengthen that authority to keep a bad carrier from operating again,” said Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The company had multiple previous safety violations, government records show.
Keeping track of these charter companies is very challenging, officials say, because they often don't have depots or stations where inspections can take place. Motor coaches aren't required to pull into inspection stations, police said.
“Normally we don't stop a bus loaded with passengers for inspection, however, we do traffic enforcement,” said Sgt. Terry Licklider of the Virginia State Police.
After a series of devastating motor coach crashes over the past few months, there has been a call for tougher regulation to close loopholes for the "budget bus" companies.
For more information about passenger buslines, visit the website of the American Bus Association, buses.org. You can look up carrier's safety records at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website. Click "carrier search" in the top bar to enter a carrier name.