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Additional focus on motor carrier regulations after deadly tour bus crash

Bus transporting Chinese tourists crashes near Bryce Canyon. Four people were killed and 12 remain in the hospital. Photo credit: Utah Highway Patrol

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utahns are taking a closer look at motor carrier regulations, just days after a deadly tour bus crash near Bryce Canyon National Park.

What happened

Four people died in the bus crash Friday. Officials say every person on board suffered injuries. As of Saturday night, at least five passengers remained in critical condition.

Tourists from China filled that bus; Utah tourism officials say about half of the visitors to Utah’s five national parks from China use tour buses to do so.

According to Utah Highway Patrol, the bus drifted off the right side of the road and then overcorrected, causing the bus to fishtail and rollover. They do not yet know what caused the accident.

UHP said the driver did not appear to be intoxicated.

The bus driver was reportedly making his first trip for the company, which is based in California.

Motor carrier regulations under a microscope

The Utah Department of Transportation says a new driver coming into a new state is not uncommon or illegal.

“Your operator license allows you to operate in every other state that you want to drive in,” explains Chad Sheppick, Director of the Motor Carrier Division. “They’re qualified to drive, they are allowed to cross borders.”

Much like a standard driver’s license, once drivers pass standards in a specific state, they may drive legally in other states with that same out-of-state license.

Additionally, out-of-state businesses may operate buses and other vehicles within the state of Utah, so long as they are registered in their home state.

“No additional licenses, permits or registration is required,” wrote Charlie Roberts, spokesperson for the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division.

How inspections work

For Utah specifically, officials inspect motor carriers twice daily.

Those safety inspections occur prior to when the vehicle takes off and once it arrives back at its starting point. Sheppick says officials look for a number of different things.

“Service brakes, parking brakes, steering mechanisms, lighting devices, reflectors, tires,” explained Sheppick.

He points out that if someone wishes to check out a carrier’s safety history online, they can do so. That federal website can be found here.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the company that operates the bus, America Shengjia Inc., is cooperating with the investigation.