June 4, 2013

FMCSA shuts down S.C., Kansas operators

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ordered Lake City, S.C.-based passenger carrier Destiny Tours to immediately cease all operations, declaring that its vehicle and drivers pose an imminent hazard to public safety.

During the investigation, FMCSA investigators found that Destiny Tours, which operated a charter service primarily in the Southeastern U.S., falsified an inspection document and failed to regularly inspect, repair or maintain its single motorcoach as required by federal safety regulations. No evidence was found that showed that the vehicle’s emergency exits, including push-out windows, had ever been tested.

In addition, investigators found that the owners of Destiny Tours failed to monitor and ensure that its drivers complied with controlled substances and alcohol use and testing regulations. Drivers were employed before receiving negative pre-employment drug and alcohol test results as required by federal law. Drivers were not required by the company to turn in hours-of-service records or other required documentation such as driving itineraries and fuel receipts.

FMCSA investigators also discovered that Destiny Tours had been transporting passengers in violation of a federal cease operations order issued to its owners in November 2010. Consequently, Destiny Tours had been operating without required U.S Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) operating authority.

“The focus of our ‘Operation Quick Strike’ teams is on preventing unsafe passenger carriers and commercial drivers from entering our highways and roads,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “No one traveling by bus or by private vehicle should be put at risk.”

For a copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order, click here.

The FMCSA also ordered Olathe, Kan.-based passenger carrier Midnight Express LLC to immediately cease operations, declaring that the company’s owners, Adam Breidenthal, Derrick Hansroth and Edward Goetz, were operating an unauthorized and unsafe commercial transportation service.

On May 4, 2013, a passenger traveling to Kansas City, Mo., on a modified motorcoach operated by Midnight Express fell out of a door onto the road surface and was fatally struck by other vehicles. A subsequent inspection of the vehicle by the Kansas Highway Patrol found that realigned seating modifications made to the vehicle resulted in all four emergency exit windows being blocked. Inspectors found that the rear emergency exit window was also blocked and that the release mechanism was inoperable. Inspectors found serious deficiencies with the vehicle’s brakes and discovered engine exhaust leaks beneath the passenger compartment.

“We are grateful to the Kansas Highway Patrol for their partnership and dedication to duty,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “We will continue to work together, to strengthen our partnership in order to remove unsafe commercial vehicles and operators from our roads and protect the traveling public.”

Based on findings by the Kansas Highway Patrol inspectors, the FMCSA launched a federal investigation, during which investigators found that the Midnight Express owners failed to ensure that its drivers were qualified and had complied with federal hours-of-service regulations. Drivers were not subjected to random drug and alcohol tests as required by federal regulations.

In addition, Midnight Express owners failed to obtain U.S. DOT passenger carrier operating authority and to carry $5 million in liability insurance federally required for all commercial passenger carriers.

To view a copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order, click here.

The Wyandotte County, Kan., district attorney’s office is continuing its criminal investigation.

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