Last year saw what some referred as an epidemic of tour bus crashes in New York, with crashes just outside the city, near the capital and upstate injuring dozens of passengers. Due to the increasing number of bus accidents, the tour bus industry was suddenly pushed into the spotlight. New York authorities suddenly began cracking down with a number of surprise inspections focusing on the equipment and drivers.
Safety advocates have continued to focus on bus safety across the nation. Most recently, federal regulators began investigating buses manufactured by Motor Coach Industries. Looking at buses made in the last 20 years, regulators believe that the drive shafts are manufactured defects responsible for a number of bus crashes.
According to regulators, the drive shaft on some models (4,000 MCI D-Series) the simply falls out, causing serious control problems for drivers and resulting in fatal bus accidents. This defect has, in fact, been traced back to busses in New York.
The investigation originated from a complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by FirstGroup America, the parent company of Greyhound. The complaint alleged drive shaft failure on multiple MCI buses starting in 2010. Safety loops designed to hold the shafts in place were absent. The defect caused drivers to lose control and crash, injuring passengers.
A spokesperson for FirstGroup confirmed that a Greyhound bus recently crashed near San Antonio. This crash killed two people and injured 40 others. In this case and others, it is likely that the shaft broke off before the driver lost control.
According to one bus expert, the shafts may actually catch the pavement rather than completely falling off, causing serious problems. The shafts can also damage brake lines and other safety systems.
The NHTSA may issue a safety recall, although no action has yet been taken as the investigation is still under way.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Feds probe bus defect that may have caused crashes," 3/26/12.
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