The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ordered Oklahoma City-based Heartland Charters & Tours to cease all operations effective March 23, 2013. FMCSA ordered Heartland to shut down for failing to adhere to operating conditions the company agreed to follow in July 2012 in order to return to passenger service following an imminent hazard out-of-service order issued in April 2012.
"Safety is our number-one priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Every bus company must put the safety of its passengers first, each and every ride."
The April 2012 out-of-service order was based on an extensive review of the company's operations that found multiple hours-of-service, vehicle maintenance, controlled-substance and alcohol-testing violations. Safety investigators discovered that the company did not conduct pre-employment drug screenings of its drivers and failed to use properly qualified drivers, putting the public at risk.
In July 2012, FMCSA and Heartland reached a consent agreement allowing the resumption of passenger operations provided that the carrier remained compliant with federal safety regulations.
A follow-up compliance review conducted by FMCSA investigators this month found multiple violations of the consent agreement that included repeat violations of specific safety regulations that resulted in the April 2012 shutdown.
"We are going after every carrier that refuses to follow the safety rules," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Safety is our mission, and the safety of every passenger should be every bus company's top priority as well."
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 referring to FMCSA's multilingual passenger carrier safety checklist: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx.
FMCSA also provides a free SaferBus mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android phone users that provides a quick and easy way to view a bus company's safety record: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/saferbus/saferbus.aspx.
A copy of the revocation of operating authority order can be viewed at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2013/Heartland-Charters-CAO.pdf.