Bus Carriers Get Around Shutdowns By 'Reincarnation,' Gao Says

July 31, 2009|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Almost 10 percent of interstate bus operators who have their federal permits revoked for safety violations are able to quickly resume business by "reincarnating" themselves as new companies, according to federal government watchdogs.

In a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday, investigators reported that 20 of the 220 motor coach operators ordered to stop service by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association in 2007 and 2008 remained on the road by re-registering - sometimes under the same name as the company that was barred.

The GAO launched the probe after the August 2008 crash of a bus in Sherman, Texas, that killed 17 passengers. An investigation determined that the bus operator had been "reincarnated" after having been ordered off the road two months earlier. The company re-registered using the same mailing and e-mail addresses as its predecessor.

In the case of one Maryland-based carrier, auditors found that the unnamed company's registration to provide bus service was revoked in March 2007 because it had lost its insurance. The GAO said a "new" company with the same name, phone number, cell phone number and company officer opened the next month.

In September 2008, after a roadside inspection found that the reincarnated company was using a vehicle with the same registration number as one operated by the old company, the new company was charged with 21 safety violations. The GAO found that after the inspection the company tried once again to re-register but was caught by the safety agency.

The agency enforces safety rules for interstate buses and large trucks. Ann Ferro, former chief of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head it.

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