CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Calling it an unprecedented crackdown, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it has shut down 26 bus companies throughout the country, including some in North Carolina.
The crackdown is being called the largest single crackdown in the agency's history.
“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. “Safety is and will always be our highest priority.”
The investigation began after a string of deadly bus accidents along the I-95 corridor, including a Sky Express Bus that left Charlotte bound for New York. It crashed in Virginia on May 31, 2011. Four people died.
Anne Ferro, the top administrator at FMCSA said the Sky Express bus crash was one of the catalysts for the year-long investigation, which culminated in Apex Bus, Inc., I-95 Coach, Inc. and New Century Travel, Inc. being shut down. I-95 Coach, Inc. operated three carriers in the State of North Carolina under a variety of different names.
During the investigation inspectors found a variety of violations. Those violations included:
- using drivers without valid commercial driver's licenses
- Failure to have proper drug and alcohol testing programs
- defective or malfunctioning buses and equipment
“The egregious acts of these carriers put the unsuspecting public at risk, and they must be removed from our highways immediately,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “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.”
The DOT is also working with legislators to create tougher penalties for companies that violate federal law. Right now the daily punishment is $2200 per day. Under a new law, that could increase to $25,000 per day.