Cummings Questions NTSB About School Bus Safety

July 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (July 25, 2019) -- Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, participated in a Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing “Examining the Federal Role in Improving School Bus Safety.”


At the hearing, Congressman Cummings asked Dr. Kristin Poland, the Deputy Director of the Office of Highway Safety at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), questions about NTSB’s report and recommendations regarding a November 1, 2016 school bus accident in Baltimore in which six people were killed.  In 2017, Congressman Cummings requested a hearing on school bus safety.


Below is Congressman Cummings’ question line as prepared for delivery. 


Click here to watch the question line.


Question line at Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing on “Examining the Federal Role in Improving School Bus Safety”


Congressman Elijah E. Cummings


July 25, 2019


On January 11, 2017, Congressman Steve Cohen, our former colleague Congressman Jimmy Duncan, and I wrote to our previous chairman asking that the Committee convene a hearing on school bus safety—but he did not answer our request.


I want to thank Chairwoman Norton and Chairman DeFazio for your focus on this critical issue—and for convening today’s hearing.


On November 1, 2016, six people were killed in Baltimore, Maryland when a school bus crashed into a car, then struck a pillar in a cemetery, and finally collided head-on with a public transit bus. 


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated this crash—and a crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee—and adopted a report on May 22, 2018 addressing these two accidents.


The report stated, and I quote, “Although the specific safety issues differed, the crashes shared one common factor: poor driver oversight by both the school districts and the contracted motor carriers, which resulted in unsafe operation of the school buses.”


The report found that the driver of the Baltimore school bus had, quote, “repeated license revocations and suspensions over several decades.” 


It had also uncovered instances in which the driver fraudulently obtained his license as well as numerous moving violations.


In addition, the driver had medical conditions—including a history of seizures—that should have disqualified him from driving a school bus.


In March 2017, the NTSB recommended that the Baltimore City Public Schools request a performance audit of the transportation department and then take corrective actions to improve internal controls.


NTSB also recommended that the Maryland State Department of Education review state regulations to clarify disqualifying conditions and require notification to the State Department of Education regarding all drivers who are determined to be not qualified to drive a school bus.


NTSB also made several recommendations to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.




Q: Dr. Poland, what is the status of the recommendations you made to the Baltimore City School system and to the State of Maryland? 


Q: According to a report in the Baltimore Sun from March 9, 2018, the results of the audit of the Baltimore school system showed, quote, “an accumulation of errors,” including, quote, “A systemic absence of leadership over an extended period of time” and a failure quote, “to provide due diligence over the systems” that were in place.  Have steps been taken to address these findings and to implement corrective measures that will ensure no more individuals are able to drive school buses with disqualifying conditions in Maryland?


Q: Finally, let me ask you, do you have a sense of how widespread such problems are around the nation—and do other states and localities need to take the kinds of actions that NTSB recommended to Maryland and to Baltimore City?