Three bus companies were placed out of service this past week, prompting Congress to debate stricter bus review legislation.
Currently, federal inspectors need to spot an identifiable safety violation before they can pull over tour buses on the highway for inspection.
Anne Faro, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure yesterday in favor of stricter measures to weed out so-called “reincarnated” or “chameleon carriers.”
Chameleon carriers are small bus companies that change their name or location after safety violations in order to stay in operation.
Following a lead in a chameleon carrier investigation resulted in FMCSA’s shut down of United Tours in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Saturday. United Tour bus tickets were being sold by 108 Bus or 108 Tour in New York City, a company recently established to sell tickets for other bus companies.
The only other bus company attempting to operate through 108 was Sky Express, which had been shut down after a fatal accident in Virginia on May 31.
Previously: Bus Safety Concerns Mount Following Deadly Crash
United Tours was deemed an imminent hazard to public safety due to unqualified drivers.
In seven inspections of the company in the past two years, the driver was put out of service six times, five of which were due to the driver’s inability to speak English. On May 19, the company received an unsatisfactory compliance review due to widespread violations. The violations remained uncorrected, thereby resulting in this weekend’s shutdown.
Earlier in the week, the FMCSA shut down another chameleon carrier in Atlanta. JCT Motor Coach Inc was closed after attempting to operate as JT’s Travel & Charter Inc.
Currently, it requires a sting operation to target and shut down a chameleon carrier. Most small bus carriers are curbside operators that don’t have a set office or terminal. Federal officials alongside state police will go to a destination popular with tour bus passengers for surprise inspections.
In Michigan, Haines Tours was shut down down after a sting operation in which an inspector discovered six passengers were riding in the luggage compartment. Haines was cited for a similar incident in August of 2010.
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com.
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