State To Offer Bus Safety
Refresher Courses in Atlantic City
A series of four safety refresher courses for bus operators will be offered in Atlantic City beginning in January, through a multi-agency effort involving both federal and state organizations that deal with bus and highway safety oversight.
New Jersey, which already conducts more random roadside bus inspections annually than any other state, also will increase the number of tougher undercarriage inspections conducted during these roadside inspections.
In announcing these initiatives, State Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein noted that both bus operator and bus mechanical safety are being targeted.
"The most important safety component of any bus is the operator behind the wheel," Weinstein said. "We will continue to stress vehicle inspections but we must also ensure that the man or woman operating the bus is knowledgeable and professional in their operation of the vehicle. Ensuring safety both behind the wheel and under the hood are critically important to the traveling public."
State Attorney General Peter Verniero yesterday instructed the New Jersey State Police to review bus enforcement efforts following three serious bus accidents in the state since December 24.
"Safety begins before the bus driver takes his vehicle out onto the road each day," Verniero said. "Safety is a mindset and these refresher courses will remind drivers of their obligations to their riders. Safety is our message and the New Jersey State Police will enforce the motor vehicle laws as a deterrent to unsafe vehicle operation along the state’s highways."
The safety refresher courses will be coordinated by the South Jersey Transportation Authority and will include the involvement of the following agencies: Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers; New Jersey State Police; New Jersey Office of Highway Safety; New Jersey Highway Authority, operator of the Garden State Parkway; NJDOT; and SJTA.
The topics to be addressed at the safety refresher courses include vehicle inspection requirements for both mechanics and bus operators; hours of operation laws and driver fatigue issues; motor vehicle laws related to safe bus operation; how to obtain road condition information; dealing with passenger emergencies; and other related issues.
"As the operator of the Atlantic City Expressway, we are focused on safe travel along our roadway," said James Crawford, Executive Director of the SJTA. "Approximately 410,000 bus trips will be made along the Expressway this year, with those buses bringing 10 million visitors to Atlantic City. The SJTA’s role in coordinating the upcoming refresher courses for bus drivers shows that we’re serious about safety."
The Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority will provide space to accommodate the four sessions. The refresher courses will be offered weekly at the Convention Center, during the midday period when bus operators are laying over following morning arrival in Atlantic City. Each bus operator will be given a certificate to be turned into their company following attendance of the refresher courses.
Weinstein noted that New Jersey has an active bus inspection program that focuses on examining the mechanical components of the vehicles. The 6,000 commercial buses registered in New Jersey are subject to annual NJDOT inspection and a mid-year self inspection by company mechanics. The state also conducts random roadside bus inspection of buses from any state along New Jersey’s highways. More than 6,100 buses were stopped and inspected in New Jersey in federal Fiscal Year 1997.
The NJDOT will increase the number of roadside bus inspections conducted with portable ramps that allow inspectors to examine underside components of the vehicle. The state also will purchase vehicles with auxiliary lighting that will allow roadside bus inspections to take place at night. Currently, these inspections are done during daylight hours on both weekdays and weekends.