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December 13, 2013

Feds shut 52 unsafe bus lines in nationwide sweep

LOS ANGELES — Drivers at one passenger bus company routinely worked more than 800 miles without rest. Maintenance at another company was so shoddy that one bus drove despite glaring evidence of brake problems.

Federal bus safety regulators said Thursday they shut down those two and 50 other motor coach companies in a major nationwide crackdown on unsafe outfits.

The 52 companies aren’t just low-cost, fly-by-night carriers — some have transported school bands, Boy Scouts or senior citizens, according to Anne S. Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Overall, the motor coach industry carries about 700 million passengers a year in the U.S., roughly the same as domestic airlines.

In April, the agency began scrutinizing 250 companies with poor safety records out of the approximately 4,000 interstate bus lines it regulates. “Operation Quick Strike” came partly in response to major crashes of carriers that, despite dismal safety records, the agency allowed to continue operating.

The agency said that for the campaign, it trained more than 50 inspectors to look more closely at motor coach companies. As a result, investigations that in the past might have been done in a few days in some cases took a few weeks.

The 52 companies that were shut down “put safety by the wayside in order to compete in a very tight market,” Ferro said. Three companies have been allowed to reopen after making improvements, her agency said. Several other companies told The Associated Press that they were in that process.

The agency said that of more than 1,300 buses inspected, 340 were taken off the road at least temporarily.

Just one of the companies — Kansas-based Midnight Express LLC — was shut down following a death.

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