Federal transportation regulators put 52 bus companies out of business in the past eight months, eight of them in the Carolinas. The Department of Transportation says the bus companies were shut down as part of what it calls Operation Quick Strike—an effort to crack down on unsafe bus companies. WFAE’s Ben Bradford looked into the alarming safety records of our local companies that were shut down.
RUMSEY: Ben, it looks like these companies are charter and interstate buses.
BRADFORD: That’s right, these are buses regulated by the federal government, rather than the state. That means their routes can or do take them across state lines.
RUMSEY: So what nearby companies were shut down?
BRADFORD: The closest three are Spaulding Charters and Tours in Charlotte, and then Executive Charter Lines and DAPTCO in Greensboro. And, the violations are eye-opening.
RUMSEY: Like what?
BRADFORD: You name it. Everything from defective breaks and wheels, lack of emergency exits, drivers without valid driver’s licenses, falsified records, failure to conduct drug tests or background checks … the list goes on. In 12 visits to Spaulding Charter over the past two years, regulators inspected employees 32 times and vehicles 18 times—some of these are at the same visit. They found a driver who couldn’t understand traffic signs in English, another with no license. Regulators shut down one bus three separate times for an improper exhaust system, improper wiring protection, and cracked or broken wheels. Spaulding only has two buses. The other one was shut down twice for cracked or broken wheels, and loose or missing wheel fasteners.
For the two companies in Greensboro, in a combined 10 vehicle inspections, investigators shut down the vehicle nine times.
RUMSEY: So what happens to these companies once they’re shut down?
BRADFORD: One of the Greensboro companies, DAPTCO, is already back up and running with a conditional safety rating, which means it may pose a higher safety risk. They were shut down after having bad tires, missing a brake on one of their axles, and having false reports about their records. The department says the company fixed its violations and now meet federal safety requirements.
RUMSEY: Now, why did the transportation officials start this crackdown?
BRADFORD: They say it was partly in response to some major crashes by companies with poor safety records. Although, only one company, Midnight Express, in Kansas—was shut down after a death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.