The unprecedented motorcoach safety crackdown primarily targeted
bus companies operating along the East Coast's I-95, where crashes
last spring left several people dead and dozens injured.
In an unprecedented move, the US Department of Transportation
Wednesday shut down 26 intercity bus operators, declaring them
"imminent hazards to public safety."
It was the single largest safety crackdown in the history of the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the branch of
the DOT established in 2000 to help curb fatalities and injuries
resulting from bus and truck crashes.
In its move, unveiled formally on Thursday, FMCSA ordered 10
individual bus company owners, managers, and employees in six states
- based in Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, and
Pennsylvania - to stop passenger transportation operations,
including selling bus tickets. The companies had transported more
than 1,800 passengers each day in states from New York to Florida
The 26 "shutdown orders" included one ticket seller, nine active
bus companies, and 13 companies that had already been ordered to
halt operations, but had continued anyway, FMCSA said. Also included
were three other companies that were in the process of applying for
authority to operate.
But the apparent main targets of the year-long investigation were
three companies: Apex Bus Inc., I-95 Coach Inc., and New Century
Travel Inc., umbrella companies that oversaw "a broad network of
other bus companies," according to the FMCSA "out of service" orders
against the companies.
Federal investigators allege multiple safety violations including
vehicles not regularly repaired or inspected and drivers who were
unqualified. In particular, the companies showed "a continuous
pattern" of using drivers who did not have valid commercial driver's
licenses and others who had "hours of service" violations - driving
more hours than permitted, FMCSA reported in its "out of service"
orders. The companies, it said, also lacked alcohol and drug testing
programs for drivers.
"These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus
companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers' safety at
risk, we will shut you down," US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
said in a statement.
In directing the action, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro added in
a statement that "the egregious acts of these carriers put the
unsuspecting public at risk, and they must be removed from our
FMCSA began investigating the carriers operating along I-95 after
a series of deadly bus crashes in spring 2011. Several bus companies
were ordered to shut down last summer. Further investigations found
other problems and major safety violations with other I-95 carriers.
Slowly, investigators painstakingly pieced together "links between
the bus networks," FMCSA reported.
Motorcoach travel is considered a safe mode of highway travel,
with 750 million passenger trips per year, the DOT reports.
Motorcoach company inspections have more than doubled from 2005 to
2011. Even so, motorcoach crashes have resulted in an average of 19
occupant fatalities per year over the past 10 years. That does not
include fatalities among pedestrians, drivers, and passengers of
other vehicles involved in those crashes.
Bus industry officials were quick to support the DOT action.
"Companies that flout the laws and regulations that safe, well
run bus companies follow, and the concentrated action to get these
carriers shutdown and prosecuted are much appreciated," said Peter
Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, in a statement.
"FMCSA's actions went far beyond random roadside inspections, and
ABA very much supports these types of law enforcement efforts. …