NTSB hits transportation agency for lack of oversight in bus crash

The National Transportation Safety Board is blasting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for not doing enough to get unsafe bus and truck drivers off the road. This follows an investigation into a 2016 bus crash in California in which four people died and 20 were hurt. Investigators found the driver was severely sleep deprived.

The FMCSA is an agency without a lot of leadership. It hasn't had a full-time administrator since January, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. The new one wasn't appointed until September and is going through the confirmation process. Now the NTSB is saying someone over there needs to get to work.

The deadly accident last August was horrifying. A sign post tore through much of the bus' passenger cabin just after 3 a.m.

"It was every type of injury that you could think on this," said Sgt. Louis Lara of California Highway Patrol.
 
The NTSB found the bus company had "demonstrated its repeated lack of compliance" but was allowed to keep operating. Shortly before the crash, it passed an inspection by the FMCSA despite a virtual laundry list of issues.
 
The NTSB found drivers worked too many hours and falsified reports. It listed a "lack of oversight" as a contributing factor in the crash.
 
"Are there unsafe drivers on the road today and are signs being missed? I think so," NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
 
"Was there enough evidence with their existing rules to have taken action to prevent this crash?" Van Cleave asked.

"Well, we think so. We think that they should have done a better job with knowing what was going on with this particular carrier," Sumwalt replied.
 
Our 2016 investigation raised questions about the FMCSA's oversight and its medical reporting requirements. We found a voluntary reporting system with drivers failing to report dangerous medical conditions.

The agency declined to talk on camera, but in a statement said: "We appreciate the very important work of the NTSB and we will thoroughly review their investigation findings. Safety will always be FMCSA's highest priority." The agency eventually shut down the bus operator more than two months after the deadly crash.

"I think they need better regulations to enforce what they're doing. And they need to do a better job of doing what their regulations call for," Sumwalt said.

A DOT official was quick to point out the crash happened under the previous administration, but FMCSA announced earlier this year it would not pursue new proposed regulations to improve its safety rating system and also stopped working on new sleep apnea rules.