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June 29, 2011

Rogue coach operator at it again

by Nicole Schlosser

On Monday, reports of yet another motorcoach accident appeared in the press. A tour bus, operated by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based New Oriental Tours, was traveling from Kentucky to New Jersey when it rear-ended a tractor trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike east of Pittsburgh. The driver was killed, and dozens of passengers were hospitalized.

This accident follows a disturbing pattern. There was the New York City tour bus accident in March, which killed 14 people and hospitalized the driver. Coming right on the heels of that was the coach collision on the New Jersey Turnpike, in which two people were killed and dozens injured.

Then, of course, in late May, there was the Sky Express crash, with four fatalities. The FMCSA promptly shut down the carrier — after finding that it was attempting to operate and sell tickets under a different company name — but that trivial little detail didn’t faze them.

Not even one day passed before this rogue operator, which violated multiple federal safety regulations, went back to its regular unapproved stop in Charlotte, N.C., preparing to take passengers up to New York City. Thankfully, a surprise inspection put the kibosh on that, but how long will it be before it happens again?

Meanwhile, there is the issue of driver fatigue caused by overwork. Even though it may not have been a primary cause of all of these accidents, it definitely played a significant role in the Sky Express crash. The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, had completed a trip from New York to North Carolina only hours before being asked to drive the same route again. He was asked to make the drive alone.

Cheung’s wife told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he at first told his supervisors that he was tired and couldn’t do it. However, feeling under pressure because no other drivers were available, and being afraid of losing his job, he agreed to the second shift. Cheung told a Virginia State Police trooper after the accident that he dozed off and fell asleep while driving.

Clearly, that extra money they would have gained from that job wasn’t worth it to them: they’re in trouble with the law, and have a driver in jail, facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Yet, these issues are apparently not stopping the “chameleons” behind Sky Express from trying to reincarnate. Greater enforcement isn’t getting to them. So, what will?

Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor

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  • Craig Van Dyke[ July 1st, 2011 @ 11:27am ]

    Someone must shut these killers down immediately! They obviously have no regards for life or law. They are putting fear in the American people who may want to consider charters for their future transportation needs. It can and certainly will have a major impact on the companies that operate in compliance with the laws for the motor coach industry. Some more intense inforcement must take place soon before other innocent people die. They all need to be held accountable for their actions as well. My heart goes out to the passengers as well as the driver who feared losing his job if he said he was too tired to drive. As an industry, we need to fix this!!

  • Lawson[ July 1st, 2011 @ 11:29am ]

    It cost a lot of money to have workers compensation, liability and physical damage and excess coverage insurance and meeting all the licensing, driver training, safety programs, fees paid to the state and local government (who keep raising the taxes due to budget woes). I suppose the rogue operators are cutting so many corners that people are unaware of until an accident happens. We need more proactive enforcement from the federal and state DOT and in Hawaii the PUC. The rogues give all the legitimate operators a bad reputation whenever an accident happens and the driver is not up-to-date on required licensing and training and the company does not have or has insufficient coverage. These type of accidents are sensationalized by the news media and the law makers tend to increase regulations that only cost the community more but ignored by the rogues anyway. At minimum, there should be a national up-to-date data base that the insurance companies and government agencies report any cancellations of insurance and licenses besides the current CDL for drivers.

  • francis perugi[ July 1st, 2011 @ 12:00pm ]

    I tried to get the DOT to go after alot of these rogue companies in early 2000- all I ended up with was an audit!! I had nothing to worrie about , but that was their response; to say, "don't tell us how to do our job" My complaint was that I could not compete with their rates because they didn't spend the money that it takes to have proper regulated authority,ins & maintaince, etc. You can google my history just by my name and find out that I'm a bit of a folk hero/entrapenor. I would like to corrispond more if you are intrested. Sincerely, Francis Perugi c#516-924-0478. I currently work for NYCTA

  • kathryn[ July 1st, 2011 @ 2:17pm ]

    Sure makes it rough for Companies that do things legally. My company has been getting calls asking about our policies on driver hours and also age group of drivers.

  • Keith Charles Edwards[ July 2nd, 2011 @ 4:02pm ]

    The driver should tell his story and his bosses will go to jail.

  • Keith Charles Edwards[ July 5th, 2011 @ 4:54pm ]

    To Mr. Lawson: I know that operating costs are high, but if these operators cannot abide by the rules, then they should not be in business. Let's return to unionized men behind the wheel. They are professional and they enforce the rules. If you can't swim with the sharks, don't play in the water.

  • Jan van Eck[ July 5th, 2011 @ 5:35pm ]

    The author (and the posters) all fail to understand the workings of the Chinese bus market. The market runs by Chinese brokers, who in turn hire out buses from charter operators. The brokers (who sometimes own buses, but the bulk of the buses are still hired out)pitch cheap tours to the public on an individual-seat basis. To make it work, they need cheap buses. the industry dynamics are driven by Florida coach operators who bring their buses up to the NYC-NJ market for the Summer, when their own business is slack. Those buses get flogged to the Chinese consolidators for about $700 a day (fuel in). By definition, there is no money left for a second driver, so the tour drivers get beaten up - hence, hours of service violations. I was offered to do a sub tour from NYC to Cornell to Buffalo, then back to NYC. For this two-day I was offered 2 x 725 + $1450. The mileage is 2 x 485 = 970. With fuel at about 80 c/mi., fuel alone is $800. Can you run a bus for 1,000 miles over two days for a gross of $650? For $325 a day? If you don't, the Florida operator does. Their idea is: $300/day x 30 days = $9,000 which you otherwise don't have, never mind the wear on the bus and the wear on the driver. And therein lies the problem: the Chines brokers drive down the gross for the local industry, because "some" can get cheap buses from Florida. Kick the Florida players out, and watch prices firm. As prices firm, these abuse problems go away. remember: if the traveler pays an extra $12 a day, the industry has enough to pay a standard rate for the bus charter. That last twelve bucks is what makes a wrecked bus market.


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