Poor safety prompts closure of 26 discount bus companies
Companies targeted in the crackdown offered steeply discounted fares between New York’s Chinatown and numerous destinations along the East Coast, including Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Connecticut casinos, Washington DC, Florida, and other places. These “Chinatown buses,” as they are commonly called, offer tickets priced 50 to 90 percent less than standard Greyhound fares, making them popular with students, retirees, and working-class immigrants.
According to federal officials, the 26 shuttered companies were affiliated with three loosely networked and elusive bus operators that ignored federal safety regulations. Whenever these companies were caught by inspectors and law enforcement officials and ordered to close, they easily changed names and continued operating – a system that made it difficult for federal regulators to keep bad bus companies off the road.
Many of these companies had such low standards that they didn’t check the backgrounds of the drivers they hired. They also failed to test drivers for alcohol and drugs or if they held the required license to legally operate a passenger bus. Some of the companies did not monitor drivers’ hours to be sure they were getting federally mandated periods of rest.
All of these failures have played a role in recent crashes involving discount buses. A March 2011 crash on I-95 in the Bronx killed 15 people and injured several others. The driver in that crash was said to driving the bus nearly 80 mph in a 55 mph zone after driving passengers to a Connecticut casino late on March 11 and hauling them back to Chinatown in the early morning hours of March 12. Investigators also found the driver had served two prison sentences and lied to police officers about his identity twice before to avoid getting traffic tickets.
Two days later, another Chinatown bus from a different company crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and one passenger. That company, Super Luxury Tours, an affiliate of New Century Travel, was one of the companies ordered to close Thursday.
The crackdown was welcomed by some industry representatives. Thomas G. Jebran, chairman of the American Bus Association (ABA), told the New York Times that his organization’s members, both large and small, welcomed tougher enforcement of safety regulations. “There are some bad apples out there that, frankly, it took way too long for them to deal with,” he told the New York Times.
Mr. Jebran told the New York Times that the American Bus Association supports the stricter regulations included in a transportation bill that is pending in Congress that would ratchet up the fines for violations and require motor coach carriers to display their safety ratings on their buses and the websites used to sell tickets.
New York Times
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