updated 6/20/2011 12:36:46 PM ET 2011-06-20T16:36:46

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday asked the federal government to post letter grades for discount tour bus companies so consumers will be able to easily see the companies' safety records.

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The measure is prompted by a string of deadly bus crashes since a March crash left 15 dead in the Bronx. Since then, New York has sidelined hundreds of buses and bus drivers in a stepped-up program to stop buses for safety evaluations. Many drivers were found to have had multiple driver's licenses with histories of violations.

Story: Deadly bus crashes highlight safety issues

The safety information is already public record and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration already posts safety scores on its website. But Schumer said a simple letter grade is needed to clarify the record and it must be posted so customers can see it before they buy tickets.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a clear rating system for low-cost tour bus companies.

"If bus companies have a poor safety record, passengers should know about it before they purchase a ticket," Schumer said. "It is crucial that passengers are clearly and unambiguously alerted to a company's safety record before they ever board a bus."

Discount tour buses that often take daylong drives to casinos and other tourist sites have been involved in accidents in several states this year, prompting calls for more safety measures at the state and national level. Better background checks are also being sought after several drivers were found to have had criminal records or previously suspended licenses.

Safety advocates and scientists who study sleep say the roots of the accidents lie with an industry whose economic model often results in fatigued drivers on the road at night or in the early morning when their bodies naturally crave sleep.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Driver fatigue caused crash, investigators say

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