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FMCSA takes motorcoach company, driver off the highway for safety violations

A U.S. Department of Transportation medical exam looks at a range of conditions to determine a driver's medical fitness, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory and muscular functions, vision and hearing.

The Trucker Staff

3/14/2014

WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared one driver and one motorcoach company as imminent hazards to public safety and taken them off the nation’s highways.

The driver is Connecticut-licensed Terence W. Slowther, who the agency said hid critical medical information. He was told not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

The FMCSA ordered Serv-A-Bus and its owner to immediately cease all interstate and intrastate passenger transportation services.

In ordering Slowther out of the driver’s seat, the agency said on Feb. 9 Slowther was operating a commercial bus transporting a U.S. Coast Guard Academy men's hockey team when he experienced a medical episode on Interstate 95 in Connecticut. When the vehicle started swerving erratically at a high rate of speed, a number of the cadet passengers removed Slowther from the driver's seat and regained control of the vehicle, bringing it safely to a stop.

A subsequent investigation by the FMCSA and Connecticut officials revealed that on Dec. 27, 2013, Slowther failed to disclose prior episodes of dizziness and fainting occurring between 2010 and 2012 to his medical examiner as required during his CDL medical qualification examination.

FMCSA's imminent hazard out-of-service order for Slowther is based upon his disregard of federal safety regulations, the safety of his passengers and of the motoring public, the agency said.

Commercial drivers must pass a U.S. Department of Transportation medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their CDL and legally drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Beginning May 21 of this year, interstate CDL drivers will be required to obtain their medical certification from a healthcare professional who is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and has been trained, tested and certified on the specific physical qualifications that affect a driver's ability to safely operate the vehicle.

FMCSA developed the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners final rule as part of the agency's commitment to enhancing the medical oversight of interstate drivers, and preventing commercial vehicle-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.  Among the new responsibilities of the medical examiner will be to provide identifying information for each driver examined to the National Registry to prevent medically unqualified individuals from obtaining or retaining a CDL.

A U.S. Department of Transportation medical exam looks at a range of conditions to determine a driver's medical fitness, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory and muscular functions, vision and hearing.  Medical examiners perform approximately three million examinations on commercial truck and bus drivers each year.

In announcing the action against the motorcoach company, FMCSA said its investigators found that Serv-A-Bus, as recently as last month, continued to transport passengers, primarily students, despite a January 2013 cease operations order and revocation of its USDOT registration after receiving an unsatisfactory safety rating by federal regulators.

FMCSA's imminent hazard out-of-service order for Serv-A-Bus and its owner is based upon their widespread disregard of federal safety regulations, the safety of passengers, and of the motoring public, the agency said.

In February 2014, the Beaver, Utah, High School speech and debate team was traveling to Berkley, Calif., on a bus whose operation was under the control of Gene Brady, the owner of Serv-A-Bus. The driver drove far in excess of federal maximum Hours of Service limits. In addition, components of the bus, including some mirrors, a bumper and the luggage compartment doors, were secured to the vehicle by elastic cords, and the driver was observed engaging in unsafe driving maneuvers. Before the initial leg of the trip was completed, the adult coaches and chaperones contacted the school to arrange alternative transportation due to the unsafe behavior of the driver and the poor mechanical condition of the vehicle. The next morning, on its return trip to Utah, with no passengers aboard, the bus experienced engine problems, caught fire, and was engulfed in flames on the roadside of Interstate 80 in Placer County, Calif. No injuries were reported as a result of the vehicle fire.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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