Following up on a story I first blogged about last week, The Oregonian reports that federal authorities have ordered the bus company involved in the New Year’s weekend crash on Deadman’s Pass section of Cabbage Hill, east of Pendleton, to cease operations in the United States. According to the newspaper, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on this week that the Canadian company operating the tour bus had let the driver work “well beyond” the 70 hours per 8 days maximum allowed by US law.
As the paper notes, “nine people died in late December when (the) bus… ran through a guardrail and rolled down a steep embankment along Interstate 84.” A further 39 people were injured in the fatal Oregon bus crash, an accident which, as I noted last week, raises significant wrongful death questions.
The action taken by federal officials raises several issues. Obviously, rules designed to prevent driver fatigue need to be rigorously enforced in the interest of public safety, but enforcing those rules on a foreign company is likely to involve significant technical and logistical issues. It is especially worrisome that, as The Oregonian reports, the order requiring the company to cease US operations “specifically cites the company for failure to test the driver for drugs and alcohol prior to the crash, failure to properly maintain driver qualification requirements and failure to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner.” To be fair, it is difficult to imagine that Canadian national or British Columbian provincial law (the bus company is headquartered in Vancouver, B.C.) does not also address most if not all of these issues – but assuming that it does, one has to wonder why two governments as closely tied as ours and Canada’s are not able to exchange information that might go a long way toward protecting public safety.
The newspaper quotes a FMCSA spokesman confirming that “the order to cease operations is indefinite.”
The information emerging about the reckless and negligent conduct of the bus operator and bus driver lends greater weight to the idea that the New Year’s accident may meet the standards established by Oregon law for wrongful death claims. This is particularly the case when one considers another statement by federal officials: that the vehicle appears to have been speeding when the Cabbage Hill bus crash took place. The entire Cabbage Hill section on I-84 is well-known for its treacherous driving conditions. The accident took place on Deadman’s Pass, a section of Cabbage Hill long-recognized as especially challenging and, therefore, requiring even more care on the part of drivers.