By Glenn Swain
Wednesday evening United Motorcoach Association President and CEO Victor Parra received an email from the Federal Motorcoach Carrier Safety Administration inviting him to a conference call to alert the organization and others in the motorcoach industry that a sweeping crackdown of rogue carriers had taken place. Hours later the FMCSA announced it had shut down 26 bus operations, declaring them imminent hazards to public safety. The action was the largest single safety clampdown in the agency’s history. Additionally, FMCSA ordered 10 individual bus company owners, managers and employees to cease all passenger transportation operations, which includes selling bus tickets to passengers. The bus companies transported over 1,800 passengers a day along Interstate-95, from New York to Florida.
“It doesn’t come as a complete surprise, this was in the making for a while,” Parra told BUSRide on Thursday.
FMCSA officials held a news conference Thursday afternoon in New York to announce the unprecedented action. For Parra, the crackdown brings a double-edge sword.
“While I appreciate them shutting down the other carriers and we support that 100 percent, making it a public issue doesn’t help our industry,” he said. “These carriers are not indicative of what the industry is about. It certainly helps inform carriers, but it cast a negative pall on a very safe industry. The stories being reported don’t reflect the safety record of the industry. It gives a distorted impression about the safety record and the safety fitness of this industry.”
Parra cited 2011 statistics showing 34 fatalities in an industry that carried approximately 720 million people.
“That’s a phenomenal record, and certainly better than the trucking industry and probably better than the airline industry,” Parra added.
Parra said shutting down the ticket seller is the key to putting rogue curbside carriers out of business. He pointed to the website gotobus.com as an example.
“They (FMCSA) have attempted to shut that down, although they don’t have the exact authority,” Parra said. “FMCSA’s only jurisdiction is over interstate bus operators.”
As of Thursday afternoon gotobus.com was still operational.
“IMG absolutely endorses the FMCSA and the action they have taken in reaction to bus companies who work without licenses and safety standards,” said Bronwyn Wilson, president of the International Motor Coach Group. “It’s for the betterment of the industry and we applaud that move.”
“The concentrated action to get these carriers shut down and prosecuted is much appreciated,” said American Bus Association President and CEO Peter Pantuso in a prepared statement about the crackdown. “FMCSA’s actions went far beyond random roadside inspections, and ABA very much supports these types of law enforcement efforts. We will continue to support FMCSA, and we urge our members to operate at the highest level of safety.”
“I believe this shows the importance that the government is placing on safety in regards to intercity transportation,” said Greyhound Spokesperson Timothy Stokes. “Safety is Greyhound’s main focus and we also believe it is an integral part of the industry as a whole.”