The Associate Press reports that in multiple states, inspections performed to judge the safety of buses are often inadequate and of questionable value. The AP story describes one particular accident in which the bus had been inspected just eight days before the tragic bus accident. The inspection unfortunately failed to notice an illegally recapped tire and grease on the brakes. The bus crashed when a tire blew and the bus ran off the road, killing 17 passengers.
The company that inspected the bus closed after the accident, but AP reports that the brother of the man who owned the business reopened a new inspection shop a short time later at a different location with the approval of that state's Department of Public Safety.
NTSB Calls for Stricter Inspections
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that standards be improved and that commercial bus inspections be subject to federal supervision. The investigation of the bus accident reference above found that the inspection by the private garage and the oversight by the DPS were inadequate.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has yet to act on any of the recommendations. Legislation has been introduced in Congress, but is currently stalled in a committee.
Buses are required by federal law to be inspected, but the states are responsible for the inspections, and the AP story details that half of the states have no inspection standards. In many states, roadside inspection is all that is necessary to satisfy the yearly inspection requirement.
In addition to lax or nonexistent standards, in some states, the bus company can do its own inspection of its buses. Given the lack of standards and state agencies that are often understaffed, it is unlikely bus inspections will improve, absent more demanding federal standards and oversight.
Source: U.S. News, "Bus Inspections Get Lax Oversight Despite Crashes"