You may have heard about the deadly Megabus crash which took place in Illinois in early August (of 2012). A double-decker motorcoach operated by the company was heading from Chicago to Kansas City along Interstate 55 when one of its rear tires apparently failed. The bus left the interstate and plowed into a concrete bridge support near Litchfield. One woman died and several passengers were injured, and Megabus was sued as a result of the crash.
This tragedy spurred an interesting development. Federal authorities investigating this bus accident found enough evidence to issue a new warning to motorcoach companies regarding the tire weight limits on their vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a bulletin instructing all motorcoach operators to be aware of the weight limits of the tires on double-decker buses when they are fully loaded with passengers and/or cargo. The agency urged the carriers to properly distribute the weight of cargo and passengers and also to inflate the buses’ tires to their maximum recommended air pressure levels in these instances. These precautions are to be especially emphasized on hot days, when tire separations are more likely to occur.
The federally-mandated weight limit for double-decker busses is 80,000 pounds. At the time of the I-55 accident, Megabus did not operate any motorcoach stations that were equipped with scales – meaning that they had no idea how heavy their buses were when they left for their destinations. Megabus passengers were able to select their seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.
This statement by the FMCSA may change the way that Megabus and many of its competitors do business. Companies may start weighing luggage (and even passengers) in an effort to compute the weight of each bus before it departs. In addition, Megabus may have to start shuffling passengers around within a bus in order to evenly distribute the weight being borne by the vehicle. Finally, Megabus employees may have to check each tire before the bus is allowed to leave a station to ensure that every fully-loaded bus is riding on tires which are inflated to their maximum recommended levels.
Since federal officials have identified this problem with tire weight limits, motorcoach operators may be held liable in future bus accidents if it can be proved that the companies did not follow the guidelines set forth by the FMCSA regarding fully-loaded buses. If this were to take place, the bus companies could be named as defendants in personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death lawsuits filed by injured passengers or the family members of deceased passengers.