A Tulare, California, tour bus crash brought a sudden end to a Yakima, Washington, bus trip Monday night. The tour bus crashed into a truck in Central Valley late Monday night.
The tour company, Fronteras Del Norte, runs regular shuttle excursions up and down the West Coast. The bus was making a routine trip to Yakima when it appears as though the bus rear-ended a big rig as the semi suddenly hit the brakes. There were 36 people on the Tulare tour bus when it crashed late Monday.
In a report on the safety of tour buses in November, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave Fronteras Del Norte its worst rating for bus maintenance, thereby putting it on alert status. According to a report ending December 27, 2013, the tour bus company has had multiple serious violations over the last 12 months, with standards lagging in the areas of vehicle maintenance and hours of service violations.
Hours of service violations are violations that include things such as allowing drivers to drive beyond 14 hours or the driver not retaining his last 7 days’ worth of logs.
The Tulare tour bus crash injured 17 people who, were then sent to hospital, according to the California Highway Patrol. The remaining passengers complained of pain, but told responders that they did not need to go to the hospital. All injuries in the Tulare tour bus incident were deemed minor.
The crash occurred on northbound state Highway 99 around midnight Monday night.
The National Transportation Safety Board has cracked down on the United States Department of Transportation as recently as November, when NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman issued a stinging indictment of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). After a February 2013 bus crash near Big Bear killed seven on the bus and the driver of a pickup truck, it was determined by NTSB investigators that the crash occurred as a result of faulty brakes.
The company running that bus, Scapadas Magicas, has had a long history of safety violations, yet the FMCSA has done little to suspend the company’s operations. Buses across the nation, in fact, have been cited for safety issues ranging from cracked brake drums, worn brake pads, to distraction issues such as drivers texting for hours while driving or talking on their cell phones.
The public has grown increasingly agitated about the continued unsafe buses hitting the nation’s highways. Hersman said that the spate of unsafe buses on the road needs to be stopped before a crash occurs, not after a serious crash has occurred. Brenda Knight, the niece of Fred Richardson, who died in the Big Bear crash, wondered why the buses continued to drive up and down the roads although there are continued safety issues.
In the case of Fronteras Del Norte, the company has been cited for operating with non-functional lights, among other operational issues. Fronteras owner Joel Lopez has admitted in the past that his buses could be better maintained. His fleet is an aging one, and maintenance continues to be an issue for the company.
The 17 passengers injured in the Tulare tour bus crash are being assessed by medical personnel before getting released.
By Christina St-Jean