It is Satisfactory Only for ABA members
New program systematically ranks and removes non-compliant members in the FMCSA SAFER database
By David Hubbard
Following the two horrific coach crashes in 2011 involving the Sky Express and World Wide Tours motorcoach companies, public outcry for a safer industry prompted a number of proactive responses. Suggestions ranged from driver awareness training to stricter safety monitoring.
This year the American Bus Association (ABA) board of directors and staff initiated a rather revolutionary program to supplant the industry’s ubiquitous anger toward rogue operations.
ABA is now ranking coach operators every 90 days with regard to the FMCSA’s SAFER system database and expels any company that has an “Unsatisfactory” score. ABA allows companies showing a “Conditional” score 180 days to bring the scores up to “Satisfactory” or face removal from the membership roster. According to ABA Membership Director Roderick Lewis, by late 2012 the association had identified and immediately removed nearly a dozen companies.
ABA President and CEO Peter J. Pantuso says ABA decided to take this step to demonstrate how seriously it regards all safety issues.
“We wanted to respond by doing something more concrete and lasting,” says Pantuso. “We wanted to let the public know that if anyone boards a motorcoach belonging to one of our ABA members, they will have the assurance in knowing they are working with a well-run, compliant company with safe, well-maintained coaches and properly trained drivers.”
Lewis says ABA also found 25 companies operating in conditional status and informed them of the 180-day period to bring their scores up to the satisfactory level.
“We tell companies in this situation how they can improve their score,” he says. “ABA can and will assist in whatever way we can by working with well-established companies in the Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) and using other resources we can recommend.”
Dan Ronan, ABA’s senior director of communications, says none of the companies removed from the roster have returned to ABA.
“We take this responsibility very seriously,” says Ronan. “The fact ABA has culled out member companies proves this is a course of action we will pursue.”
He says the ousted operators are but a small fraction of companies operating in the U.S. and Canada, and represent about 3 percent of the ABA membership that has faced safety-related issues.
The association established its code of ethics to help promote the highest standards of intercity bus service among its members. Prior to becoming an ABA member company, the motorcoach operator must first sign the ethics code, promising compliance with all state and federal regulations.
ABA says it based this action on its belief that federal and state governments must have the authority to impound motorcoaches after the authorities shut down such unsavory companies. ABA also supports ongoing legislative efforts to improve motorcoach safety, such as the proposal to assign motorcoach companies a letter grade of “A” through “F” dependent on a company’s inspection scores.
According to ABA, no other association takes this step to remove unsafe members from its membership or has a clear-cut code of ethics about business operations.