26 Chinatown bus companies were shut down by transportation regulators in May 2012 for employing unqualified drivers and operating buses that were either not regularly inspected or in need of repair. The crackdown on companies that included Apex Bus, Inc., New Century Travel, Inc. and 1-95 Coach, Inc., was in response to multiple fatal bus crashes the year before, which left 17 dead and many more injured.
If you thought that mass shutdown meant the end of dangerous Chinatown bus companies, you were sadly mistaken.
Last week, police arrested 8 bus carrier operators that, along with 6 other individuals still at large, have been charged with impeding a U.S. Department of Transportation investigation as well as fraud.
According to the indictment, the bus carrier operators failed to meet the Department of Transportation safety regulations, made false statements to the Motor Carrier Safety Administration, provided false information to the Department of Revenue and submitted false documents to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in order to incorporate their companies in Pennsylvania, though they were actually headquartered in New York.
Similarly to the 26 bus companies shut down in 2012, this new batch of companies was charged with using improperly maintained vehicles, hiring drivers that did not pass drug tests or were not qualified to drive commercial buses, and falsifying documents in order to allow drivers to work longer hours than is legal.
Federal transportation officials claim that the individuals charged have been shut down for safety violations in the past, and continue to start new bus companies using the same unmaintained vehicles.
Clearly, the Department of Transportation needs to find a more effective way to put an end to unsafe practices by this same group of bus carrier operators. As passengers, we also have a responsibility to be on the lookout for illegitimate bus carriers offering suspiciously low rates. No savings is worth the risk of injury or death at the hands of an overworked driver or a defective vehicle.
Crawley, John, “Feds Shut Down 26 ‘Chinatown’ Bus Companies For Alleged Safety Violations,” Huffington Post, 31 March 2012.
Hall, Peter, “Wind Gap man charged in Chinatown bus conspiracy,” The Morning Call, 15 March 2016.
Packel, Dan “Feds Indict 14 In Chinatown Bus Fraud Scheme,” Law360, 15 March 2016.