Firefighters on the scene after the fatal Dahlia crash in Flushing last month (via FDNY)
Senator Chuck Schumer wants private bus companies to post letter grades on their windshields as part of a system comparable to restaurant grades. Highly visible A, B, and C ratings would motivate bus companies to keep up safe practices and ideally prevent deadly crashes like the one involving a private bus operator in Flushing, Queens last month that killed three, including the driver, and injured 16, he says.
Letter grades would enforce and strengthen a 2012 law, which Schumer signed on to, that requires “satisfactory,” “conditional” or “unsatisfactory” ratings for private bus companies to be posted online by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. According to Schumer’s office, private bus companies are also already required to post safety performance ratings on buses and at terminals, but haven’t yet.
“While there are safety grades when someone gets on a bus, they have no idea what they are,” Schumer told reporters at a Sunday press conference on 59th Street and Second Avenue, according to the NY Times. “They are required to be posted on the websites, but they are posted in such a small, hidden way no one sees them.”
The FMCSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The NYC Department of Transportation also didn’t immediately say whether it would support the rule.
Raymond Mong, 49, was driving an empty bus for the Dahlia tour company on Northern Boulevard in Flushing shortly after 6 a.m. on September 18th when he crashed into an MTA bus turning right from Main Street onto Northern Boulevard. The tour bus then careened into the corner of 136-04 Northern Boulevard. Security camera footage shows that Mong was driving the tour bus fast enough to cause the MTA bus to spin around nearly 180 degrees.
Mong was employed as an MTA bus driver before taking a job at Dahlia, but was fired from that post after being convicted of driving under the influence in Connecticut. Dahlia also has several crashes on record. One of the company’s buses rolled off of Interstate-95 last year, DNAInfo reports, and two people were killed when another bus flipped over on the Garden State Parkway in 2003.
With a letter grading system, Schumer predicted, “The companies that spend money to ensure a culture of safety will rise to the top, and the bad actors who disregard the value of safety and human life will fail to survive unless they improve.”
Dahlia, the NY Times points out, still holds a “satisfactory” rating on the FMCSA website.
A report last week from the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats in the State Senate, found that 121 out of 249 private bus companies operating in New York have federal violations on their records. Dahlia is not the state’s worst offender, they found.