CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Federal regulators have shut down a discount bus line running between Charlotte and New York City, after an investigation found Ming An Inc. was using unlicensed drivers and unsafe buses.
The bus line, which made daily runs from Queen City Drive near Interstate 85 to Chinatown in Manhattan, had one of the worst safety records in the nation. Ming An scored worse than 99.8 percent of passenger bus companies for driver safety, federal records show.
An Observer investigation in January identified Ming An as one of several bus companies operating from Charlotte with poor safety records.
“This is a company that operates unsafely,” said Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration head Anne Ferro, on Friday. “(Ming An) frequently uses part-time, unqualified drivers, and often ignores basic safety maintenance and operating standards.”
The FMCSA investigation found New York-based Ming An employed drivers without valid commercial driver’s licenses and drivers without medical certificates. The company also didn’t inspect buses or require driver duty logs, a key tool to guard against fatigue.
Ming An also had a long pattern of unsafe driving, regulators said, with drivers cited five times for going 15 mph or more over the speed limit in the past two years and employed drivers who hadn’t completed required drug and alcohol testing.
The shut-down order applies to Ming An as a company and owners Qian Zheng, Huo Guang Chen and Xi Yun Xu.
Unsafe passenger bus lines have been under increased scrutiny since the 2011 crash of a New York-bound passenger bus killed four people in Virginia on I-95. The bus line in that crash, Sky Express, was based in Charlotte.
Two weeks ago, federal regulators shut down Fung Wah Bus Transportation, one of the original and most popular low-cost bus lines, after the company allegedly refused to comply with safety inspectors.
Although Sky Express was shut down in 2011, discount bus lines frequently “reincarnate,” or slightly change their business names to reopen with the same owners, when the government orders them off the road.
“This growing and disturbing practice poses a real enforcement challenge,” Ferro told lawmakers at a Congressional transit committee hearing on Thursday.
Ming An had ties to other bus companies, regulators said, including some that had been ordered shut down.
Documents obtained by the Observer last year showed Ming An had bought a bus from Sky Express after the company was shut down in 2011. Ming An also employed some of the same drivers who worked for Sky Express.
Ming An also used a Charlotte house formerly used by Sky Express to apply for a North Carolina certificate of authority to do business in August 2012. The house, a split-level on Idlewild Road, was also owned by a corporate official with Sky Express.
On Thursday, Ming An appeared not to be operating in Charlotte anymore. No Charlotte departures were listed for sale on its website, and both phone numbers listed weren’t working.
At the Queen City Drive restaurant Ming An had used as a bus stop, there were no buses or passengers in sight. No one answered the door at the house on Idlewild Road, and only a car with no license plates was parked there.