July 5, 2011

Pa. bus co. involved in crash ordered to cease operations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Mr. Ho Charter Service of Bethlehem, Pa., to immediately cease all intrastate and interstate passenger service for multiple drug and alcohol testing violations and for failing to ensure that its drivers comply with hours-of-service regulations.

"Safety is my top priority and any behavior that puts the traveling public at risk will not be tolerated," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We will act immediately to take any carrier out of service that we find to be operating unsafely."

On June 27, 2011, a motorcoach operated by Mr. Ho Charter Service was involved in a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The co-driver was killed and 24 passengers and the driver were injured.

Prior to the crash, on June 7, 2011, FMCSA safety investigators conducted a compliance review on Mr. Ho Charter Service. The FMCSA cited the company for failure to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on its drivers and issued substantial civil penalty fines. By federal regulation, passenger carriers have 45 days to contest such citations.

During this mandatory appeal period, Mr. Ho Charter Service continued to disregard federal regulations. The company hired two new drivers — the two drivers involved in the June 27 fatal crash — without requiring federally mandated pre-employment controlled substances tests on either driver. During the post-crash investigation, FMCSA safety investigators found that these same two drivers had falsified their records.

While the cause of the crash is under investigation by federal and state authorities, the FMCSA has found, as stated in last week's Imminent Hazard Out-of-Service order, that Mr. Ho Charter Service's behavior and actions "demonstrate a continuing disregard for compliance with [federal safety regulations] and a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety."

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