NEW YORK —
In another accident, a driver lost control on a slippery highway near Pendleton, Ore., in December 2012, sending his bus through a barrier and down a steep slope. Nine people were killed and the driver and 37 passengers were injured.
The driver of the bus had been on duty for 92 hours in the eight-day stretch before the accident, exceeding the 70-hour federal limit.
The bus was traveling too fast in poor weather, and the driver had the vehicle's transmission retarder engaged even though it isn't supposed to be used when roads are slick because it can cause wheels to skid, NTSB said. A transmission retarder limits speed.
U.S. officials had previously fined bus operator Mi Joo Tour & Travel of Vancouver, Canada, for not testing drivers operating buses in the U.S. for drugs and alcohol. When the company failed to pay the $2,000 fine, federal officials ordered the company to cease U.S. operations. Mi Joo then paid the fine and was allowed in March 2012 — nine months before the crash — to resume transporting passengers in the U.S.
Federal inspectors had given Mi Joo satisfactory safety rating in 2011 — a year and a half before the crash — even though an NTSB review afterward of those inspections revealed "longstanding and systemic" problems dating to when the company first began operating in the U.S. in 2007.
"This fatal crash might have been prevented if the (motor carrier administration) had exercised more effective federal oversight" during the 2011 inspection, the NTSB said.
The NTSB's findings are "very disturbing and, frankly, deadly for the public," said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
The motor carrier administration said in a statement that the number of unsafe companies and drivers the agency has taken off the road have more than tripled over the past three years through more comprehensive investigations.