A recent Ohio charter bus crash about 30 minutes outside of Zanesville left six passengers dead and eighteen injured. An initial crash report indicates that the accident occurred due to a semi-truck following too closely, causing a chain reaction when drivers had to slow down for traffic.
Charter buses are categorized as commercial motor vehicles and subject to federal and state safety regulations that can complicate legal claims. Passengers involved in a bus crash may require assistance from a commercial vehicle accident attorney.
Sequence of Events in Deadly I-70 Accident
On the morning of November 15, a Pioneer Trails charter bus carrying 54 students and chaperones to Columbus for a conference crashed on I-70 in Licking County. Two commercial trucks and two passenger vehicles were also involved.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal agency with the authority to investigate highway accidents, said its investigation could take more than a year as it examines safety issues related to the crash.
Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) conducted a preliminary investigation of the chain reaction accident between the charter bus, two semi-trucks, and two SUVS. In its crash report, OSHP found that the owner of a Hebron, Ohio semi was following too closely.
The report states that the semi from Hebron rear-ended an SUV and pushed it into the back of the charter bus. The semi overrode the SUV and hit the charter bus, which then crashed into the back of a second semi-truck.
Three students, two chaperones, and a teacher died in the crash. Fifteen students and the bus driver, in addition to a truck driver and a passenger vehicle driver, were treated at local hospitals.
Thousands of Commercial Bus Crashes Every Year
Two months before the deadly Ohio charter bus crash, a bus carrying high school students in New York veered off the interstate and rolled down an embankment, killing two students and injuring dozens.
A faulty front tire was initially blamed for the accident. It has since been revealed that the charter bus company was placed on the state’s list of “unacceptable operators” due to failing 5 out of 15 safety inspections during fiscal year 2023.
Large, passenger-carrying buses are considered motor carriers and fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA provides the following statistics on commercial bus crashes:
- In 2022, there were more than 15,000 bus crashes nationwide resulting in 248 fatalities and 13,269 injuries.
- Ohio had 707 commercial bus crashes in 2022, with 14 fatalities and 563 injuries. In 2021, Ohio commercial bus crashes killed 14 people and injured 671.
- Through the first half of 2023, there were 469 commercial bus crashes in Ohio that killed 8 and injured 332.
Commercial Bus Regulations and Crash Factors
Private motor carriers of passengers are subject to FMCSA regulations. Commercial buses must abide by state regulations as well.
Commercial transportation companies in Ohio are considered public utilities and regulated by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO). PUCO, for example, sets insurance and registration requirements for intrastate and interstate motor carries.
Nonbusiness carriers, including charter bus companies that provide transportation for civic organizations, schools, and churches, are exempt from certain regulations. According to PUCO, passenger-carrying motor carriers are subject to the following regulations:
- Special training requirements
- Controlled substance/alcohol testing
- Commercial driver’s licensing
- Driver qualifications
- Operating rules (e.g., speed limits and equipment inspection and use)
- Parts and accessories necessary for safe operation
- Hours of service of drivers
- Inspection, repair, and maintenance
Each of these regulatory areas has numerous subsections that provide detailed rules for motor carrier companies and drivers. These rules come under scrutiny following a commercial bus crash that causes injuries or fatalities. A single violation, such as broken lighting or bad tires, could be proof that a bus operator acted negligently and contributed to the accident.
Bus crashes can also be caused by other vehicles, as may be the case with the Etna, Ohio charter bus crash. If the NTSB investigation agrees with OSHP that the Hebron-based semi-truck was following too closely—and this is established as the cause of the crash—the crash victims may be able to bring personal injury claims against the truck company.
Get a Free Charter Bush Crash Legal Review
Charter bus crashes, like large truck crashes, are very different than car accidents. Injuries tend to be more severe, and investigations more complicated. More than one party may be found responsible for the crash, leading to multiple legal claims.
Commercial vehicle accidents require a law firm with experience handling these types of cases. Graham Law understands commercial vehicle laws and how to obtain maximum compensation for accident victims. For legal help with an Ohio charter bus crash, please schedule your free consultation.