The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is cracking down on transportation companies that threaten public safety on our nation's roadways.
On May 31, the Administration announced that it had shut down 26 curbside bus operations for safety violations in "the largest-ever single federal crackdown on the industry," according to the Washington Post. Following a year-long investigation prompted by several fatal bus crashes, FMCSA officials issued Imminent Hazard Orders to three primary bus companies: Apex Bus Inc.; I-95 Coach, Inc.; and New Century Travel, Inc. Together, these companies oversee numerous operations in six states: Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
"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 an official news release. "Safety is and will always be our highest priority."
The companies targeted in the shutdown regularly carried more than 1,800 passengers a day along the Interstate 95 corridor, which stretches from New York to Florida. In all, the Administration officially closed nine active bus companies; one ticket seller; 13 companies continuing to operate after already being ordered out of service; and three companies attempting to apply for operating authority. In addition, 10 people (bus company owners, managers and employees) were ordered to "cease all passenger transportation operations, which includes selling bus tickets to passengers."
Federal investigators reportedly discovered that the companies had committed the following safety violations:
• Failing to implement drug and alcohol testing programs
• Operating vehicles without regular inspection and repairs
• Using drivers without valid commercial driver's licenses (and exhibiting a pattern of employing unlicensed drivers)
• Violating hours of service and driver qualification requirements
"The egregious acts of these carriers put the unsuspecting public at risk, and they must be removed from our highways immediately," said Anne S. Ferro, FMCSA Administrator. "With the help of multiple state law enforcement partners, we are putting every unsafe bus and truck company on notice to follow the safety laws or be shut down."
Curbside bus operations - which pick up and drop off passengers on street corners instead of using terminals - have been the subject of much debate in recent years. They are popular in urban areas because they offer a cheap alternative to other modes of city travel, but their fatal crash rate is seven times higher than other kinds of buses. What's more, some curbside bus companies repeatedly dodge federal safety requirements, reports the Post:
"Safety officials long have complained that their attempts to put unsafe bus operators out of business are frequently thwarted by 'reincarnated carriers' that simply reopen for business under a different name or in a different location, or that transfer their buses to an affiliated company that shares similar ownership."
To combat this particular issue, FCSMA has enacted a new rule which prevents these closed-down companies from "reincarnating" into various other forms, according to the news release.
This week, to highlight its continued focus on enforcing safety requirements, the Administration launched International Roadcheck 2012, a three-day initiative involving an estimated 70,000 bus and truck inspections. Together with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), FCMSA has dispatched 10,000 inspectors throughout North America to ensure that carriers are in compliance with federal safety requirements. Roadcheck 2012 began on June 5 and will conclude today.
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