After a string of bus crashes on the east coast in the past few months, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced on May 31, 2012 that it is shutting down twenty-six (26) bus services. After a year-long investigation on most of the subjects, the FMCSA has noted that all 26 of these bus operators are “imminent hazards to public safety.” This act is a unique, landmark move on the FMCSA’s part: the FMCSA has never shut down this amount of transportation operators in one fell swoop in its history. The closed bus companies previously transported thousands of passengers from New York to Florida by using Interstate-95. The FMCSA’s desist order also applies to 10 individual bus company owners, employees, and managers.
The affected bus services include ticket sellers, active companies, companies that were previously ordered to shut down by the FMCSA, and companies that were in the application process of being able to operate as transportation services. The three biggest companies that the FMCSA aimed at included New Century Travel, I-95 Coach, Inc., and Apex Bus, Inc.
The FMCSA included that all of the bus operators in question posed as an imminent hazard to public safety for fellow motorists. Past investigators often found that the bus companies in question either failed to have controlled substance-testing, allowed employees to operate buses without valid commercial driver’s licenses, allowed employees to operate vehicles that were not regularly maintained or inspected, had employees that operated above the maximum amount of hours an employee can drive in one shift, or a mixture of all the above. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, “These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down.”
Since a sizable number of the affected bus companies attempted to circumvent prior FMCSA shut-down orders, the FMCSA is implementing measures to ensure that the companies cannot evade the desist order simply by assuming a new company name or brand. The FMCSA created a new rule in April that allows the FMCSA to act against transportation companies that evade the desist order by changing their company brand, name, and image. The FMCSA also intends to cooperate with law enforcement of all types and levels in identifying name-change transportation services.
United States Congress is also contemplating passing legislation that would give the FMCSA greater power to deal with such name-change companies. Some ideas for legislation include a sort of national “successor liability” standard that will discourage FMCSA-targeted companies from merely undergoing name changes, allowing the FMCSA to have more power in terms of investigating companies, or raising the penalty for operating without authority over 10 times the amount it is set at currently.
The trend of FMCSA-targeted transportation services evading shut downs by changing their names is quite troubling. If you are involved in a Missouri truck accident, consult a Missouri truck accident lawyer in light of these company trends.