The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Springfield, Mass.-based Santana Busline, Inc., to immediately cease unauthorized interstate passenger service and also declared the company to be an imminent hazard to public safety for failing to ensure its drivers and vehicles complied with federal safety regulations. The company had been operating 15-passenger van service between Springfield, Hartford, Conn. and New York City.
"We won't allow the traveling public to be put at risk by unsafe bus operators," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We will take swift action when we uncover companies that ignore our federal safety regulations."
In October 2012, Santana Busline, Inc. was denied DOT operating authority to conduct interstate passenger service based on its close affiliation with another company, Santana Xpress, Inc., a passenger carrier that had been placed out of service by FMCSA in April 2012 after receiving an unsatisfactory safety rating and for failure to pay civil penalties.
In January 2013, state commercial vehicle inspectors discovered that Santana Busline was operating unmarked 15-passenger vans. FMCSA subsequently began an investigation of Santana Busline's operations and vehicles, and concluded that the carrier was operating without DOT authority and in blatant disregard for federal safety regulations.
Investigators found that Santana Busline failed to ensure that its drivers comply with hours-of-service requirements, allowed unqualified drivers to operate its vehicles in an unsafe manner, failed to conduct periodic vehicle safety inspections, failed to properly maintain and repair vehicles as required by federal regulations and knowingly dispatched vehicles with safety defects.
"We will not allow an interstate bus, van or trucking company to disregard the law and to disregard public safety," said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. "We will continue to work closely with our state law enforcement partners to identify, investigate and shut down carriers that have no place on our highways and roads."
FMCSA urges consumers and whistleblowers 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.
Travelers planning a bus trip are also encouraged to think safety first before buying a ticket or chartering a bus by using FMCSA's multilingual passenger carrier safety checklist: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx.
In February, FMCSA launched its SaferBus mobile app available on Google Play. Previously, FMCSA released its SaferBus App for iPhone and iPad users to provide a quick, easy and free way to view a bus company's safety record: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/saferbus/saferbus.aspx.
A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2013/Santana-Busline-IH.pdf.