U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Monday, November 7, 2011
Contact: Candice Tolliver Burns
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Orders North Carolina Passenger Van Company Off the Road For Safety Violations
FMCSA Also Conducts Surprise Passenger Carrier Safety Inspections that Remove 902 Unsafe Buses and Drivers from the Road Across the Country
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared North Carolina-based ATA Trail Inc. an imminent hazard to public safety, and ordered the passenger van company to immediately cease all transportation services. FMCSA issued an imminent hazard out-of-service order against ATA Trail following a comprehensive review of the company’s compliance with federal safety standards.
“Our message is clear. Unsafe buses and drivers have no place on our nation’s roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are using every available resource to remove high-risk bus companies and drivers that threaten the safety of the American motoring public.”
ATA Trail was immediately shut down after FMCSA safety investigators found the company in violation of multiple federal standards, including using drivers without the required medical qualifications, violating hours-of-service rules for drivers, operating without the proper insurance, and using vehicles that were not regularly inspected and repaired.
FMCSA issued the shutdown order following a nationwide crackdown on unsafe bus operators, during which federal, state and local police conducted 8,300 surprise safety inspections of motorcoaches, tour buses, school buses and other commercial passenger vehicles over a two-week period. The unannounced inspections were part of FMCSA’s annual National Passenger Carrier Inspection Strike Force, which resulted in 902 unsafe buses or drivers being removed from our roadways.
In addition to the unannounced strike force inspections, FMCSA and state safety investigators initiated 350 on-site comprehensive safety compliance reviews on commercial passenger bus companies. These reviews ensure that a passenger carrier is following federal motor carrier safety standards, and determine the carriers’ safety rating.
“Protecting the traveling public and saving lives is our top priority,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “These thousands of unannounced bus safety inspections and strong enforcement actions send a clear signal that we will not tolerate bus companies or drivers that place our safety at risk. Play by the safety rules of the road or lose your privilege to operate in this industry.”
FMCSA’s annual Passenger Carrier Inspection Strike Force builds upon DOT’s ongoing efforts to strengthen bus safety. Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of bus inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation’s estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies.
Roadside motorcoach inspections have jumped nearly 100 percent, from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,705 in 2010, while compliance reviews are up 128 percent, from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. In addition, FMCSA has initiated a greater number of enforcement cases against unsafe passenger carriers under the current administration: these cases have risen from 36 in 2008 to 44 in 2010.
The DOT has asked Congress to provide FMCSA with greater authority to shut down unsafe bus companies by raising the penalty for operating illegally from $2,000 a day to $25,000 per violation, and closing loopholes that allow bus and truck companies that have been shut down to recreate themselves under a new name. DOT has also requested that Congress authorize FMCSA to conduct bus safety inspections at en route locations such as rest stops, and to require new motorcoach companies to undergo a full safety audit before receiving operating authority.
In January 2010, FMCSA banned texting by drivers of commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses. FMCSA has also proposed prohibiting commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver’s CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.
The DOT also unveiled a “Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time” pre-trip safety checklist that helps consumers review a bus company’s safety record, safety rating and U.S. DOT operating authority before buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for group travel. The checklist is available online at FMCSA’s Passenger Bus Safety Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx. FMCSA encourages consumers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database.
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