Major Federal Sting Closes Down Rogue Bus Companies
In 2011, several fatal motor vehicle accidents prompted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to investigate the bus companies involved in the accident. Probably the most well known of these crashes was a gruesome March incident in the Bronx when an allegedly speeding bus heading to Chinatown from a trip to a Connecticut casino was sheared in half after hitting a barrier. That bus accident killed 15 passengers and those that survived were all hurt, some with severe injuries.
The driver, who apparently has had his driver’s license suspended 18 times, faces criminal charges.
The FMCSA announced in late May that it had targeted 26 bus operations mostly up and down the East Coast under the umbrella of three parent bus companies. All were so-called “curbside bus companies” that sell tickets on the Internet and rather than using depots, pick up and drop off their passengers at street locations.
Curbside bus companies sell inexpensive tickets, but the trade off is reportedly in safety – they have a much higher percentage of fatal crashes than other bus companies, and do things on the cheap with low driver salaries and tight margins.
Another typical characteristic of such companies is the practice of morphing into another operator with a new name after being shut down under the old one. “Ghost buses” are those in the fleet that are painted white so the names and logos can be quickly and easily changed.
The culmination of the investigation resulted in the FMCSA shutting down 26 companies for being “imminent hazards to public safety.” In addition, 10 persons associated with the companies were personally ordered to cease working in the bus industry.
Legitimate members of the bus industry supported the crackdown on the dangerous operations. Typical safety violations committed by the shuttered companies allegedly included hiring unqualified drivers and not testing them for drugs and alcohol, as well as thwarting hour and rest requirements.