The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Washington, D.C.-based passenger carrier Washington DC Party Shuttle, which also does business as Onboard DC Tours, to immediately cease all operations, declaring that its drivers and vehicles pose an imminent hazard to public safety.
This is the first shutdown of a passenger carrier following the deployment earlier this month of more than 50 specially trained safety investigators targeting high-risk passenger carriers.
"We are making good on our pledge to get unsafe bus companies off the road," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We are committed to protecting the traveling public and we will not hesitate to take action."
Washington DC Party Shuttle/Onboard DC Tours operates primarily as a tour bus service in both the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and in New York City.
An FMCSA investigation launched earlier this month revealed that the company had failed to monitor and ensure that its drivers comply with federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. Investigators found that one driver had repeatedly been permitted or required to operate a passenger vehicle even though it was known that the individual had tested positive for a controlled substance. The investigation also found that the carrier does not have an effective maintenance program, which results in significant safety problems with its vehicles. These violations and conditions of operations substantially increase the likelihood of serious harm to drivers, passengers and the motoring public.
"Every passenger stepping onto a commercial bus or van is entitled to a safe driver and safe vehicle, regardless of whether it is a major carrier, a curb-side operation, a charter or, in this case, a party and tour service," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Our safety regulations do not discern among passenger carriers business models -- our sole focus is on safety."
As part of FMCSA's work to make safety data readily available to the traveling public, the SaferBus mobile app gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company's safety record before buying a ticket or booking group travel. The SaferBus app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android phone users, can be downloaded for free by visiting FMCSA's "Look Before You Book" webpage at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.
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 at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx.
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.
As to bus companies that FMCSA has recently placed out of service, consumers who paid for their ticket by credit card may be entitled to a credit from their credit card company under the Fair Credit Billing Act. For more information visit: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/bus-credit-refund.aspx.
A copy of today's imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2013/WashingtonDCPartyShuttle.pdf