The U.S. Transportation Department ordered two bus companies to shut down following separate incidents in which they left passengers stranded along interstate highways for hours after mechanical breakdowns.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said today it revoked the authority for New York-based All Nations Coach to operate. Hialeah, Florida-based McRea Transportation Inc. was declared a public-safety hazard and ordered to close.
“There is no place on our highways and roads for bus operators who disregard safety,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Passengers should be able to trust that the company they use will be able to get them to their destination in a safe and timely manner.”
The shut-downs were the latest moves by regulators to get tougher on rogue operators in the fastest-growing mode of U.S. commercial transportation. The agency has ordered 17 operators off the road since April.
Both companies had buses break down enroute to New York City last month. They left passengers on the sides of highways, leaving local authorities to transport them to a safe place. Neither company had a plan to get replacement buses to pick up their customers, the regulator said.
McRea, which runs buses from Atlanta to New York, experienced a breakdown at 2:30 a.m. on July 11 along Interstate 85 in Northampton County, North Carolina, the FMCSA said. Fifty passengers were taken by state law enforcement officials to a Virginia welcome center, where they waited 10 hours for a replacement bus to arrive.
The FMCSA investigated McRae following the incident, the agency said today. Regulators concluded the company wasn’t adhering to rules on driving-time limits and drug testing, and found falsified records, it said.
McRae officials told regulators the 863-mile route between Atlanta and New York was too long to be accomplished within the federal limit of 10 hours of driving in a day, requiring drivers to exceed speed limits, break the driver-rest rules or falsify duty-status records, the order said.
The company’s drivers were paid by Horse Run Tour Inc., a Georgia company that isn’t authorized to operate across state lines, the FMCSA said.
An All Nations bus traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York broke down on I-95 in Caroline County, Virginia, at midnight July 16. Fifty-three passengers were taken by state and local authorities to a truck stop, where they waited 24 hours for a replacement bus to arrive.
Two weeks earlier, the agency had ordered All Nations to prove it wasn’t a reincarnation of Tichy Express, a company the government ordered shut down in 2011 for safety violations. The July 16 stranding happened during a 21-day appeal period related to that order. The FMCSA issued a shut-down order July 22.
Tichy Express’s owner, Isa Nebi, had told regulators in Albany, New York, in December 2011 that he would have his wife buy a bus company if they denied his request to restart his operation, the government said.
Nebi had his wife purchase All Nations’ DOT registration number in April 2012, according to the government’s order. The sale didn’t include any buses, loans or leases. Both companies list Nebi’s home as a business address, the government said.
The bus industry supports the Transportation Department’s efforts to take unsafe companies off the road, especially so-called reincarnated carriers, said Dan Ronan, an American Bus Association spokesman, in an e-mail.
“It’s been shown on several occasions these companies are among the most dangerous,” Ronan said. “We applaud today’s shutdown.”
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