BOWLING GREEN, Va. -- The U.S. Department of Transportation ranks the Charlotte-based Sky Express bus line among the worst in the nation in driver fitness, citing it dozens of times in the last year for driver fatigue. Yet the DOT s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave Sky Express a satisfactory rating and allowed the buses to keep rolling, with fatal results.
Virginia State Police have concluded fatigue was in part to blame for an early morning accident northbound on I-95 near exit 104 in Caroline County, northeast of Richmond.
According to State Police after speaking with witnesses and reviewing the scene, the bus ran off the side of the road and the driver apparently over-corrected, flipping the bus with 58 passengers on board.
The U.S. DOT has cited Sky Express 46 times in the last year for driver fatigue - thirteen of those in just the last two months.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ranks Sky Express worse than 99.7 percent of other bus and truck companies in the nation in driver fitness, largely because the bus line was cited 14 times for drivers inability to read or speak English - a DOT requirement.
He either did not speak English or would not speak English, says reporter Chris Glorioso of WNBC-TV in New York. He tried to confront a driver and another employee about Sky Express' safety record after riding to Foxwoods Casino from Chinatown in March.
Riders on the casino bus - which ferries passengers overnight to and from New York s Chinatown district to nearby casinos - told Glorioso that they saw drivers nodding off.
DOT rules require that drivers spend no more than ten hours behind the wheel and work no longer than 15 continuous hours. But DOT found repeated instances of Sky Express drivers not keeping accurate log books or falsifying logs.
After an accident in the Bronx on another casino bus run by a different bus line killed 10 passengers in March, New York s Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand co-sponsored legislation to improve bus driver safety. At the time, Senator Gillibrand said, We can t wait for another deadly bus crash to increase protections for consumers and ensure bus safety.
Tuesday, four more passengers died.