U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Contact: Candice Tolliver
Tel.: (202) 366-9999
FMCSA Issues Sky Express, Inc. an Unsatisfactory Safety Rating and Places the Bus Company Out-of-Service for Violating Multiple Federal Safety Regulations
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued an unsatisfactory safety rating and placed out-of-service North Carolina-based bus company Sky Express Inc. for violating multiple federal safety regulations. Under the out-of-service order, Sky Express is prohibited from operating in interstate transportation services.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will use every resource at our disposal to pursue and remove from our roads unsafe, reckless bus companies.”
FMCSA issued the unsatisfactory safety rating and out-of-service order following a full compliance review of Sky Express, which found multiple violations in the areas of driver qualification requirements, drug and alcohol compliance, hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance.
“FMCSA will not tolerate passenger bus companies that endanger public safety,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Working side-by-side with our North Carolina state law enforcement partners, we took strong action to shut down this unsafe bus company.”
Sky Express was involved in a fatal crash on I-95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia today that killed four people. FMCSA is working closely with the Virginia State Police to investigate the causes of the crash.
This month, FMCSA and its state and local law enforcement partners conducted more than 3,000 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections over a two-week period that resulted in 442 unsafe buses or drivers being removed from the nation’s roadways. The strike force issued out-of-service citations to 127 drivers and 315 vehicles during the unannounced inspections that took place from May 1 – 15, 2011.
Additionally, over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of bus inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation’s estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies. Roadside inspections of motorcoaches jumped from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, while compliance reviews rose from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010.
On May 5, the Department of Transportation issued a new final rule that requires anyone applying for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to first obtain a commercial driver’s learner’s permit, and requires all state licensing agencies to use a standardized CDL testing system. It also prohibits the use of foreign language interpreters to reduce the potential for testing fraud.
U.S. DOT has also put forth several new policy proposals designed to raise the bar for passenger carrier safety, including a provision that would give the Department greater authority to pursue unsafe “reincarnated” passenger carriers by establishing a federal standard to help determine whether a new carrier is a reincarnation of an old, unsafe carrier.
Other U.S. DOT policy proposals include a new procedure that would allow for bus inspections to occur in places such as rest stops, requiring new motorcoach companies to undergo a full safety audit before receiving operating authority, revise current law to ensure that a driver’s CDL can be suspended or revoked for drug- and alcohol-related offenses committed in non-commercial vehicles, and raise the penalty from $2,000 a day to $25,000 for passenger carriers that attempt to operate without U.S. DOT authority.
The U.S. DOT also unveiled a “Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time” pre-trip safety checklist that helps consumers review a bus company’s safety record, safety rating and U.S. DOT operating authority before buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for group travel. The checklist is available online at FMCSA’s Passenger Bus Safety Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx. FMCSA encourages consumers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA’s consumer complaint Web site: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp.
Other steps the Department has taken to improve passenger safety include a new rule to ban commercial drivers from texting behind the wheel, and a proposed rule to prohibit hand-held mobile phone use. Further, in a wide-ranging Motorcoach Safety Action plan, the Department has proposed rules that will require buses to have seat belts and electronic on-board recorders to replace easily falsified paper records of driver hours. Finally, the Department launched a new safety measurement system titled Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) that provides detailed safety data to identify bus companies for safety interventions.
For more information on U.S. DOT’s range of passenger bus safety initiatives, please visit the FMCSA Web site at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
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