Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

'Operation Quick Strike' targets accident-prone bus companies

Since April 1 of this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been running a legal compliance sting operation on what it considers high-risk commercial passenger bus carriers. "Operation Quick Strike" is part of the federal regulator's response to the shocking number of serious and fatal tour bus accidents that have occurred over the past few years. So far, the agency has issued orders to 11 commercial bus companies across the nation to immediately cease operations.

The most recent FMCSA out-of-service order, which was issued against a Lake City, South Carolina, transit bus operator called Destiny Tours, illustrates some of the issues that make keeping our highways safe so difficult. Destiny Tours is a single-bus operator offering charter services in the southeast, and on Monday FMCSA investigators declared that the company's commercial bus and drivers posed an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered it to shut down immediately.

The primary reason Destiny was immediately identifiable as posing a serious risk to passenger safety was that it was operating in violation of a 2010 cease-operations order.

In addition to the fact that Destiny was carrying passengers without any authority from the U.S. Department of Transportation, investigators found that the company had actually falsified an inspection document instead of actually performing appropriate inspections, maintenance and repairs on its single bus. In fact, investigators couldn’t find any evidence that the company had ever bothered to test whether the bus’s emergency exit and pop-out windows even worked.

Even more shocking, perhaps, the company was apparently not interested in whether its drivers were using alcohol or drugs behind the wheel. Federal law requires commercial carriers to receive negative drug and alcohol tests on all drivers before hiring them, but Destiny did not do so. It also performed no drug or alcohol tests on its drivers after they were hired.

Through “Operation Quick Strike,” 50 specially trained investigators have discovered hazards requiring immediate shut-down of transit bus operators in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Mississippi, New York and Utah. That’s laudable but, ultimately the federal agency has limited funds and it’s extremely difficult to police an industry largely made up of tiny commercial carriers like Destiny.

Because tour buses typically carry 40 or more passengers, many of whom are not buckled up, bus accidents can be extremely serious. While federal agencies do their best to ensure these vehicles are reasonably safe, we all need to insist on safety on every trip.

Source: Land Line magazine, "FMCSA's 'Operation Quick Strike' shuts down another passenger carrier," Greg Grisolano, June 5, 2013

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