Rogue coach operator at it again

Posted on June 29, 2011 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?

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