AUSTIN, Texas - Thousands of people will visit Circuit of the Americas over the weekend as F1 revs up. On Thursday, Austin police made sure anyone hopping on a shuttle to the event will have a safe ride there.
Sgt. Rodney Moeller with the Austin Police Department Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit said about 110 buses are rolling into Austin for the event.
“They're coming all the way from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana…. All our inspectors are out here doing safety inspections, level ones, on commercial vehicles,” Moeller said
APD works with local and federal law enforcement to check shuttles' brakes, suspension, exits, seatbelts and more.
“In years past, 27 percent of all buses had been placed out of service. So that's a pretty good amount. So we're just out here to make sure all buses are safe for the traveling public,” said Moeller.
The first year inspectors conducted a safety operation at COTA, it quickly became an issue for transportation officials.
“As they dropped off passengers, we brought them in for the inspection. We placed so many buses out of service, it was affecting operations,” Moeller said.
“That year it did cause some issues, getting some buses that didn't meet compliance, but, in the end, we were happy that they were identified and pulled out despite the challenges that it put on us that year,” said Steven Elliott, director of transportation at COTA.
COTA staff and law enforcement agreed to move inspections to the day before F1 starts to allow bus companies time to replace any vehicles deemed unsafe before the crowds pour in.
“Most of the out of service items are dealing with brakes, suspension or driver qualifications,” Moeller said.
With 250,000 people expected to visit the track this year, APD brought in even more officers to speed up the inspection process.
“We have sold out of all of our parking, our tickets, we're expecting this to be as big a year as our first-year grand opening,” said Elliott.
“If we don't have any out of service buses, that's a good thing,” Moeller said.
APD said they did find a few drivers unqualified to operate a bus. Most of them either had the wrong license or a suspended license.