NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday called on federal officials to implement an improved and simplified ratings system for discount tour bus companies in the wake of a recent series of fatal crashes.
Four people were killed two weeks ago when the driver of a Sky Express bus en route to New York City crashed in Virginia when the driver fell asleep. The company was found to have dozens of past violations for fatigued driving.
In March, 15 people were killed when a bus returning from a Connecticut casino veered off a highway in New York City. Two days later two people were killed in a bus crash on a New Jersey highway.
Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop an easily understood rating system, using letters to reflect bus companies' safety records.
"If bus companies have a poor safety record, passengers should know about it before they purchase a ticket," the Democratic senator told a news conference in New York City's Chinatown, where several discount tour bus companies operate.
"It is crucial that passengers are clearly and unambiguously alerted to a company's safety record before they ever board a bus," he added.
A rating system would display letter grades at the point of purchase, both online and in person, he said.
The Department of Transportation had given Sky Express an unsatisfactory safety rating weeks before the Virginia crash.
Schumer noted that the FMCSA's current safety rankings and database, available on its Web site, are difficult to navigate and not easily understood.
A letter grading system would be similar to the one used in New York City for restaurant health-code inspections, he said.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)