Surprise Tour Bus Inspections at Yosemite Yield Disturbing Results

A surprise inspection of tour buses at Yosemite National Park the other day turned up a high number of buses with safety issues, and two were immediately taken out of service, according to park officials.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol, and the National Park Service held the surprise inspection Wednesday for all commercial for hire multiple passenger tour buses in the park. The purpose of these unannounced inspections is to ensure visitor safety through safe operation of tour buses. Specifically, officials hope to reduce the chances of crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving tour buses bringing passengers to Yosemite.

According to a park release, roadside inspections adhere to the guidelines of the North American Standard for bus safety. There are five levels of inspections, including a vehicle component, a driver component, or a combination of both. Inspections are designed to determine if buses are in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Violations may result in fines or taking a bus out of service immediately.

Yosemite receives approximately 3.5 million visitors per year, with approximately 250,000 arriving on a tour bus. The large majority of tour bus passengers are international visitors from countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany, and England. Many of these visitors come to Yosemite in conjunction with visiting other parts of California.

It is a primary concern of the NPS in Yosemite that these visitors are safe during their travels in the park.

There were 24 buses inspected in the park Wednesday. Of those 24 inspections, nine buses were found to be safe and were released with no citation. Fifteen buses were cited for unsafe operation and two were taken out of service.

The inspections were to continue Thursday.

Comments

It be interesting to know how many bus related accidents due to unsafe buses have actually occurred in Yosemite. It would be a shame to taint the parks as a law enforcement mechanism when there hasn't been any real problem.

I commend these agencies for the foresight to help prevent any accidents, whether some or none have happened in the Park in the past. During the past year alone, there were accidents on the California highways involving busses carrying international travelers, with horrifying results, so this inspection is justified. As is obvious from the inspection results, the inspection was definitely needed.

In Yosemite, when NPS does their inspections its not only for the visitors/travelers BUT it's also adhering to the federal law. When I worked for concessions in the park, there were several crashes that happened in Wawona, Glacier Point & in the valley (we never heard anything about Tuolumme) but because the visitors don't' hear about them, doesnt mean that it doesn't happen.

Then I suppose you will like be patted down for weapons, drug tested, or fingerprinted every time you enter a park as well. All those actions as well as bus inspections have a purpose. To do them in the Parks, however, can only damage the Park experience and discourage Park usage.

~Some~ park usage needs to be discouraged, anonymous. Some possible park users need to be discouraged too. Utopia it ain't. Isn't that why citizens now must be able to carry weapons, to protect themselves from some users (and usage)? (Not that I agree with that, personally.)

If unsafe large transportation vehicles are an issue outside of the parks, then they are certainly an issue inside of them. It is sad that the passenger's experience must be marred, but buyer beware.

Annonymous #1 and #3 - I assume you are the same annonymous person. Maybe you are overreacting in this particular instance. I should think busses everywhere have specific guidelines to follow if they intend to keep their passengers safe, and I am sure you read in the news every year where busses have crashed either because the safety issues on the vehicle itself was not up to par, or the driver was not up to par. Why does this particular inspection bother you, beings as it is not a "person" being investigated but a "thing"?

I truly doubt inspections on the busses (as you also normally see 18-wheelers being inspected in State inspection stations) will lead to taking your fingerprints at the park entrance gate. You are building a scenario in your own head that is way out of proportion to what took place - a bus inspection, for pete's sake! And in reference to my last ending remark - it was an obviously needed inspection.

Why is it relevant that a majority of users are international travelers (mentioned in the article and again by Dottie)? Is it a bigger PR disaster to send a busload of foreigners over a cliff than a busload of Americans? I would think we'd want to ensure the safety of everyone in the parks, not just visitors from other countries.

Indeed the same and i will respond again. I have no objection to inspections but let them occur where they should - on the highways and bus terminals not our National Parks. There is no reason to foul our Park experiences with vehicle enforcement matters. If our Parks become know as a haven for surprise bus inspections - buses won't go there. - Hmmm, perhaps its not a bad idea afterall.

I give up. Some people have retired and have absolutely nothing to do but nitpick peoples' comments to death, putting words and meaning where none existed.

There is absolutely no difference as to whether it is American citizens killed and maimed in a bus accident, or if it is international travlers who are killed and maimed in a bus accident. The reason I said international travlers is because the last two big accidents in California that killed and maimed their occupants were busses hauling international travlers. That is the ONLY reason. I did not in any way mean to infer it was more tragic than if they had been American citizens.

So go ahead and pick this comment to death now, as this is my final answer.

Retired? God, I wish! But seriously, there's no need to get bent out of shape over my comment.

But just in case I haven't yet made Kurt mad too, here's some real nitpicking:

Kurt said:

Yosemite receives approximately 3.5 million visitors per year, with approximately 250,000 arriving on a tour bus. The large majority of tour bus passengers are international visitors from countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany, and England. Many of these visitors come to Yosemite in conjunction with visiting other parts of California.

It is a primary concern of the NPS in Yosemite that these visitors are safe during their travels in the park.

(Emphasis mine)

When I read this I figured the first bold "these visitors" referred to the subject of the previous sentence, "the large majority" of International travelers. It would follow that the next bold "these visitors" in the next sentence also refers to the same group, thus Yosemite's primary concern is the safety of International visitors. That seemed odd, given that I thought we were talking about unsafe buses, not whether Yosemite was risking the harming foreign nationals in particular.

Call me an old curmudgeon (I'm 35 and giving unsolicited critiques of Kurt's writing is just a pleasurable hobby), but I'm still wondering how these International visitors are relevant to a bus safety article. :-)

My first time to Tunnel View was great--for the first five minutes. Somehow, I hit a lull in traffic and my girlfriend and I had the view practically to ourselves for a few minutes; then a tour bus pulled over and unloaded dozens of Japanese tourists who noisily snapped dozens and dozens of photos as the bus idled and overwhelmed the viewpoint with exhaust before noisily reloading and pulling off, a cloud of diesel belching from the tailpipe.

The NPS should regulate buses in national parks. I'll go one step further and call for their outright ban.

Just this past winter a bus carrying Japanese tourists who had visited Death Valley and Lake Mead overturned on the Hoover Dam. 7 people were killed. I'm not sure exactly what had caused that accident. It could have been something wrong with the bus or bad driving, but maybe an inspection could have stopped that from happening. I commend the parks because often our roads are curvier and steeper than the average road in America. Making sure the busses are in top shape and able to handle this is a way to keep the visitors safe. Obviously the bus companies aren't doing it, so someone should look out for the people who are putting their lives in the hands of these bus companies.