How Can I Find Out if My Tour Bus Is Safe to Ride?

••• Tour Bus in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo © Sam Diephuis / Blend Images / Getty Images

We’ve all seen examples of poor driving, unsafe vehicles and badly-maintained buses. These issues become very important when you’re planning to take a motorcoach tour. How can you find out if your tour bus is really safe?

Use the US Passenger Carrier Safety Database

In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) monitors interstate bus and truck safety. If you will be traveling on a bus that crosses a state line, you can find out about your chosen tour company or charter bus by visiting the FMCSA's Passenger Carrier Safety page.

You can search by company or by vehicle type, but most of us will find it easier to search by company.

For example, if you enter "Greyhound" in the name field, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your search results; as of this writing, you would see several Greyhound affiliates listed as "Not Allowed to Operate," as well as Greyhound Canada Transportation ULC and Greyhound Lines, Inc. Clicking on “Greyhound Lines, Inc.” will take you to the Greyhound data page, where you can review driver and vehicle safety statistics and see performance information by category.

If you can’t find your tour company’s name, you may wish to telephone them and ask if they contract with a charter company for their motorcoach services. Chances are good that you’ll be able to find the charter company’s name in the FMCSA safety listings.

While Canada does not have a national passenger carrier safety database, it does make bus safety recall information available to the public.

Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database includes recall data for commercial buses. To use this database, you need to know the manufacturer and model years of the buses your tour company uses.

Tip: The FMCSA bus safety listings also include Canadian and Mexican companies if they also operate in the US.

Another Route: Use the SaferBus App to Choose Your Bus Company

The FMCSA has created the free SaferBus app to help Android and iPhone users choose which interstate bus companies they travel with. SaferBus lets you check operating status of a particular bus company registered with the US Department of Transportation, evaluate that company's safety performance and file a safety, service or discrimination complaint against a bus company from your smart phone.

Report Unsafe Buses and Drivers to the FMSCA

If you see a bus driver behaving in an unsafe manner, such as texting while driving, or if you notice that a bus has safety issues, you should report the bus or driver to the FMSCA. You can do this by calling 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or by filling out a report at the National Consumer Complaint Database website. Of course, if you see a true emergency, you should immediately call 911.

If your US tour bus violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), either because it does not have the required equipment or because that equipment is broken, you can report the bus company to the FMSCA by telephone or online, using the telephone number and website listed above.