In August 2008, 55 members of Houston’s Vietnamese Catholic community were traveling on a charter bus near Sherman, Texas to a retreat in Missouri. Suddenly, the bus swerved out of control and went over a highway bridge, killing 17 people and injuring many others. The cause of the accident was a blown tire on the front right axle. During its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the bus had passed inspection eight days earlier despite the fact that a retread tire was illegally affixed to the front axle and one of the brakes had grease contamination.
The company that inspected the truck was owned by Alam and Cesar Hernandez. After the crash, the Hernandez brothers shut down their business only to open a new one in the same Houston neighborhood. Despite their previous negligent inspection that wound up causing 17 deaths, the Texas Department of Public Safety approved their business license in May 2010. The Hernandez brothers are once again inspecting buses. This is just one example of the lack of oversight for the businesses that inspect buses used for public use.
There is little doubt that federal regulations on the inspection of commercial vehicles are very lax. Buses like the one involved in the Texas crash are only required to be inspected annually. The inspections can be conducted by the companies actually operating the buses. The inspections are not subject to oversight or quality assurance. Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, described the lack of oversight as follows:
If you can’t afford to take a plane and have to take a bus, you are going to be subject to second-class safety standards, both in terms of equipment and oversight by the federal government.
Even though 40 people have died in bus crashes in recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has refused to answer the National Transportation Safety Board’s call for better oversight. The FMCSA claims that better oversight of state bus inspections is unnecessary, although more than half of the states have no formal inspection requirements. Lawyers in our firm have successfully handled cases involving bus crashes caused by negligent maintenance and inspections. If you would like more information, please contact Cole Portis, Ben Baker, or Stephanie Stephens, lawyers in our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com, Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com or Stephanie.Stephens@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Associated Press and MSNBC
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