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TTD Endorses Better Oversight of Curbside Bus Operators

By Admin

Ms. Loretta Bitner
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

RE:     Motor Carriers of Passengers That Serve Primarily Urban Areas With High Passenger Loads
Notice of Information
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Docket No. FMCSA–2015–0481

Dear Ms. Bitner,

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to comment on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Notice of Information and Request for Comments entitled “Motor Carriers of Passengers That Serve Primarily Urban Areas With High Passenger Loads.” By way of background, TTD consists of 32 affiliated unions that represent workers in all modes of transportation, including those who operate over-the-road buses and other commercial motor vehicles.[1] We therefore have a vested interest in this rulemaking.

Through this notice, FMCSA is seeking to define a “curbside bus operator” for the purpose of implementing section 32707 of MAP-21, which requires an annual safety fitness assessment of certain motor carriers of passengers that serve primarily urban areas with high passenger loads. The Agency has specifically identified curbside operators as the intended subject of that requirement, and proposes that these carriers should be defined as those that use 25% or more of their motorcoaches for operations involving pick-ups and drop-offs at curbside locations or parking lots.

TTD and our affiliates have long advocated for better oversight of curbside operators. While many carriers run legitimate operations, some take advantage of their unique characteristics and business models to circumvent safety rules and other standards putting drivers and passengers at risk. The passenger bus sector must be held to one standard of safety and curbside operators should not be allowed to operate unsafe vehicles, violate hours of service rules or avoid compliance with driver screening regulations simply because of where they pick up passengers. To combat this problem, TTD has supported FMCSA using its enforcement authority to deter violators and remove unlawful carriers from the roads. In 2013, we filed comments in support of the Agency’s proposed rule concerning patterns of safety violations by motorcoach carriers and praised the Agency for cracking down on unsafe operations. [2] We appreciate FMCSA’s continued efforts to ensure that curbside operators are doing so safely and lawfully.

With regards to this notice, TTD agrees with FMCSA’s determination that Congress’ intent in Section 32707 was to mandate increased oversight for curbside operators. Currently, all motor carriers must receive a safety fitness determination every three years, and it follows that Congress would expand to annual inspections for carriers with the poorest safety record and pattern of violations. This interpretation of the statute is also supported by the fact that the provision was offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who had called for better oversight of curbside operators, and had co-authored a letter in the lead-up to the passage of MAP-21 asking NTSB to expand its investigation of the fatal accident involving World Wide Tours, a curbside operator. The letter also requested that NTSB determine if additional regulation or enforcement against these entities was needed. [3]

While FMCSA appropriately focuses on these types of carriers, we believe that the definition and threshold of 25% as proposed does not capture some carriers and services which should be subject to the annual safety fitness determination. We endorse the comments filed by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), a TTD affiliate, which state that FMCSA should ensure that definition covers medium-sized buses and large passenger vans and include operations that involve transferring passengers to and from curbside pick-up and drop-off locations. As these types of vehicles are increasingly used by curbside operators, FMCSA should ensure that they are also covered by the proposed definition. By doing so, the Agency can make sure that passengers are transported only in and by compliant vehicles and drivers. Putting aside the threshold determination, the Agency should use its general safety authority, codified at 49 U.S.C 113, to perform annual fitness determinations of specific curbside operations, regardless of the overall designation of the carrier.

Additionally, it is critical that FMCSA ensure that carriers who are subject to the annual safety inspection be identified as such when registering or renewing registration with the Agency. Some curbside operators have skirted safety regulations by participating in deceptive business practices such as “reincarnating” under a new name, or managing to avoid inspections due to the difficulty of locating motorcoaches that are not housed in a central terminal. We support FMCSA’s proposal to require self-identification as a curbside operator, and encourage FMCSA to direct its enforcement personnel to aggressively pursue carriers who fail to do so.

Finally, we also endorse the recommendation of ATU and NTSB that FMCSA should consider requiring the annual assessment of the safety fitness of motor carriers engaged in curbside operations that do not primarily serve urban areas. We do not believe that curbside carriers that choose to operate in defiance of safety regulations only do so when serving intra-city routes, and therefore extending this requirement would be an appropriate use of FMCSA’s general safety authority.

TTD applauds FMCSA for its correct interpretation of the statute and for its continued efforts to address issues concerning carriers who operate curbside services. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed definition, and we look forward to working with the Agency to continue to improve safety in the passenger motor carrier industry.


Edward Wytkind

[1] Attached is a complete list of TTD’s 32 affiliated unions.

[2] Patterns of Safety Violations by Motor Carrier Management, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 77 Fed. Reg. 67613-67624, November 13, 2012. TTD filed comments to the docket on January 15th, 2013.

[3] Senator Chuck Schumer’s letter to the NTSB, co-authored with Rep. Nydia Velazquez can be found attached.

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