Monday, September 3, 2012

This holiday Labor Day weekend has some more than 30 Million people on the road like most people do on every Labor Day weekend but this year things are different. With all the annoying things you have to be subjected to when flying we want to avoid that, the price of gas for the car is a separate budget now that gas prices are still so high. Train service is unreliable or not even available in most places; so what is left? Traveling by bus is available everywhere, is a budget friendly alternative that more Americans are choosing to do lately.
Traveling by bus is now the most popular and most inexpensive way to travel to get from city to city. The main concern now is bus safety issues and our government has started to crack down on bus companies that aren’t following the safety rules. They call taking a bus motor coach travel. It is now known as the safest form of transportation in the United States today and is perfectly safe most of the time. Just fasten your seat belts if you can find them.
It is amazing that you can get a ticket and be fined immediately if you don’t fasten your seat belt in the car but there are no regulations on seat belts while in a bus. There is not even a regulation for seat belt use for children in those bouncy mostly metal school buses. We do flirt with buses because they are comfortable, convenient and cheap. There is still an entire population of people that prefers to take a bus to a casino for a day trip. Taking a nap, eat a snack watch a movie and hold hands with someone you love sounds like a cool way to get somewhere far.
As a result, buses are in the fast lane and need to be regulated better. The bus business is booming. After falling off for most of the last 5 decades, bus travel has been gaining ground since 2006 with more than 700 Million passenger trips last year alone according to the De Paul University/ Chaddick Institute. The biggest jump has been in curbside operators. Bus companies like and that load passengers on city streets as well as in terminals and go on long trips inexpensively.
It can cost you $15 dollars from New York to Boston. Wow, I just spent the last 2 days in Boston helping my daughter get off to college and the gas alone was 5 times the price. Buy your ticket in advance and it can cost $9.50 and if you are really good at finding offers you can pay as little as $1.50 a trip. For many, it is just too good a deal to pass up. In 2011 a year that saw air travel up about 2% and train travel up 5%, curb side bus trips shot up more than 30%.
Clearly the opinion on bus travel has changed. In the 1956 movie called Freedom Highway produced by Greyhound, no less, the bus looked like a place to meet and greet new people. It was very safe then but now with more bus companies popping up everywhere and anywhere, safety officials are having a hard time keeping up with them. In March 2011 more than a dozen people died in a crash on I-95 near New York City when a drowsy driver lost control and hit a sign post that cut the bus nearly in half.
Just days later, another bus crash on the New Jersey Turnpike left two dead. Two months later, a crash in Virginia killed four people when their speeding bus rolled onto it’s roof. For Federal Regulators, it seems that horrors like these are a wake up call.The Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that these crashes made them wake up to now enforce that the bus industry has safe buses that are mechanically good, that the bus drivers are well rested and are properly licensed.
In May 2012 the DOT, Department of Transportation shut down 26 Bus companies for everything from bad drivers to bald tires and the hunt for rule breakers is ongoing. Last month the Federal Motorcarriers Association carried out random inspections at the Boston South Station Bus Terminal. Even as passengers are about to load a bus, they can be stopped for a random inspection where things will be looked for like leaks in the engine, check tires for tread and pressure , see if the windows will actually open in the event of an emergency.
They also go through the driver’s log book to make sure he’s not driving longer than the legal limit. In general drivers travel logs are a trouble spot. The log books can provide too many opportunities for falsification. After all it is a paper book and what is there to prevent a driver from literally carry two sets of books? The solution is an electronic log much like an electronic time sheet. It will tie into the engine of the bus that will identify whenever that bus is moving and whenever it is being operated beyond it’s limits.
Electronic driver’s logs could be on buses as early as next year. I think I am ready to maybe leave the car keys home and take a bus trip. Who knows, it might be fun.

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