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Fatal California Bus Crash Prompts Calls for Tighter Safety Regs

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By David Goguen on April 30, 2009 10:10 AM

An accident investigation is ongoing after a chartered tour bus crashed in Monterey County, California on Tuesday, killing five people and injuring dozens of others.

The crash, which occurred on a Highway 101 overpass near the town of Soledad "has reinvigorated charges of lax federal oversight and a failure to implement safety measures on buses", the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Orion Pacific's Safety Record. The bus that crashed on Tuesday was one of 12 motorcoaches operated by Orion Pacific, which is owned by Weeks Enterprises, Inc., based in Orange, California.

At the end of 2006, Orion Pacific received a "Satisfactory" safety rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal agency that oversees the safety of the nation's buses and large trucks. The "satisfactory" rating means that the carrier has put in place "adequate safety management controls" for its size and type of operation, according to the FMCSA.

Public records available from the FMCSA also show that Orion Pacific carries $9 million in insurance coverage, which is $4 million above the minimum amount of coverage required under federal standards. 

The Focus on Bus Safety. Tuesday's accident will only increase the recent focus on bus safety and calls for stricter safety regulation of the tour bus industry. Earlier this month, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing concluded that a January 2008 Utah bus crash that killed nine people was likely caused by excessive speed and driver fatigue.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the NTSB has "called on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to take steps to ensure that bus passengers are protected from collisions by installing seat belts, strengthening bus roofs and installing recorders to monitor driver fatigue," recommendations that have been called for but not implemented for more than a a decade.