You’ve heard the argument that too many federal safety regulations hurt businesses. But recent research says a safety crackdown and new regulation in one industry has helped companies thrive.
Research from DePaul University says a federal crackdown on unsafe bus operators in 2012 along with a sluggish economy has allowed other motor coach companies to flourish.
In May 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shut down 26 of the most unsafe bus lines in the nation.
Later in 2012, a new motor carrier law, MAP-21, required improved federal registration to detect reincarnations of bus companies that had been previously shut down for safety reasons. It was common practice for shut-down bus companies to reopen with the same management but a different name.
Result: Remaining companies that have had better safety records all along can now compete with one another without having to match deep discount prices from the unsafe carriers. Bus companies still in business were also able to expand into the markets of those that were shut down.
Not heeding safety rules can save all types of companies money in the short-term. However, serious incidents often catch up with these unsafe firms.
The discount carriers suffered a number of crashes that caused serious injuries and deaths in recent years.
The situation came to a head following a May 2011 bus crash in Virginia that killed four passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board said the bus driver fell asleep. But the NTSB also faulted the FMCSA for not shutting the company down sooner. Sky Express had one of the worst safety records in the nation before the crash.
Map-21 does increase some costs for carriers. But the higher cost of starting a motor coach business is expected to keep companies that otherwise would have skimped on safety out of business.
Results of the DePaul research were discussed last weekend at the American Bus Association convention in Charlotte, NC.
DePaul professor Joseph Schwieterman says the combination of the safety improvements and sluggish economy has made bus transportation “a happening sector.” Bus transportation continues to be significantly less expensive than air or rail, a benefit in a slow economy.