The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced today that it has shut down 26 bus operations, declaring them “imminent hazards” to public safety, the largest single safety crackdown in DOT’s history. FMCSA also ordered 10 individual bus company owners, managers and employees to cease all passenger transportation operations, which includes selling bus tickets to passengers. The bus companies in question transported more than 1,800 passengers a day along Interstate-95 from New York to Florida.
FMCSA began investigating the network of bus carriers operating along I-95 following a series of deadly bus crashes last spring. Following a year-long investigation, FMCSA shut down three primary companies – Apex Bus, Inc., I-95 Coach, Inc. and New Century Travel, Inc. – that oversaw a broad network of other bus companies.
The 26 so-called Imminent Hazard Orders are effective immediately and apply to one ticket seller, nine active bus companies, 13 companies already ordered out of service that were continuing to operate and three companies attempting to apply for operating authority. The various companies are based out of Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Federal safety investigators found all of the carriers had multiple safety violations, including a continuous pattern of using drivers without valid commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and failure to have alcohol and drug testing programs. In addition, the companies operated vehicles that had not been regularly inspected and repaired. The companies’ drivers also had serious hours-of-service and driver qualification violations.
“These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
In addition to shut downs, FMCSA is taking further steps to ensure the bus companies they shut down today cannot continue to operate under other names. Under a new FMCSA rule, FMCSA has revoked the carriers’ operating authority and linked the active companies to other companies previously placed out of service.
Congress is considering surface transportation legislation, which, if passed, would adopt several new safety policy proposals to help protect bus customers, including:
- Granting FMCSA greater authority to pursue enforcement action against unsafe “reincarnated” companies by establishing a single national standard for successor liability that eliminates the loophole allowing bus and truck companies that have been shut down for unsafe operations to recreate themselves;
- Eliminating the jurisdictional gap that prevents FMCSA from directly regulating passenger carrier brokers, including ticket sellers that are not also motor carriers;
- Enhancing FMCSA and its state partners’ authority to inspect buses at locations with adequate food, shelter and sanitation facilities for passengers;
- Requiring new passenger carriers to undergo a full safety audit before receiving operating authority; and
- Raising the penalty from $2,200 to $25,000 a day against passenger carriers that attempt to operate without valid USDOT operating authority.
Consumers can report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the FMCSA through a toll-free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or online athttp://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp