FMCSA tells carrier in bus crash to halt U.S. operations
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of the Mi Joo Tour & Travel bus at Pendleton, Ore., Dec. 30, 2012. The charter on the snow- and ice-covered lanes of Interstate 84, killing nine and injuring 38. (Associated Press: TIM TRAINOR/East Oregonian)
The Trucker News Services
WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration late Tuesday evoked a Canadian travel company's authority to provide passenger service in the United States after determining a driver was not properly rested when his bus crashed on an Oregon highway last month, killing nine passengers and injuring 38. Most of the passengers on the bus were Korean.
The imminent hazard operations out-of-service order claims that Mi Joo Tour & Travel, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, fails to take basic measures to ensure its drivers are properly rested and routinely dispatches drivers without regard to hours of service requirements.
The driver in the Oregon crash, Haeng Kyu Hwang of Vancouver, British Columbia, had been on duty for 92 hours in the eight-day stretch before the tragedy, exceeding the 70-hour federal limit, according to the findings of a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigation.
The agency also said it suspended the company's authority to operate for two months early last year because the firm didn't pay a fine for failing to meet U.S. requirements for drug and alcohol testing.
The day after the crash, the FMCSA website showed that the carrier has not been involved in any accidents the past two years.
The FMCSA information shows the carrier has six buses and two drivers and traveled 26,644 in 2011 in both Canada and the U.S.
According to the Portland Oregonian, federal officials said the company provided only occasional charter bus service and never provided general passenger services with fixed schedules within the U.S.
Because of a limited number of inspections conducted in the United States, the carrier has no CSA BASIC scores.
The company has had seven driver inspections with one out-of-service violation on June 29, 2012, for no driver's record of duty status.
Over the weekend, however, CNN reported that it had obtained additional documents, which were not publicly available, that showed Mi Joo Tour & Travel had been "cited for 11 violations in 2010 and eight violations in 2011." Among those violations were failures to implement drug- and alcohol-testing programs, investigate drivers' backgrounds and perform safety inspections.
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Edward Kang, the owner of Mi Joo Tour & Travel, said in an email late Tuesday that the company is fully cooperating with the investigation. He declined to answer questions pertaining to the Transportation Department's order.
"Unfortunately, I cannot tell you anymore," he wrote.
The Oregon State Police and National Transportation Safety Board have yet to say what caused the Dec. 30 crash on Interstate 84 east of Pendleton.
The crash, Oregon's deadliest since 1971, occurred near a spot called Deadman Pass, at the top of a steep, seven-mile (11-kilometer) descent from the Blue Mountains. A truck had applied sand to the icy road a few hours before the crash and was behind the bus making another run when the vehicle driven by Hwang plowed through a guardrail and 200 feet (60 meters) down an embankment.
The posted speed limit is 65 mph (105 kph) for cars and 55 mph (88.5 kph) for trucks and buses. Police have not said how fast the bus was traveling or if driver fatigue was an issue.
The agency's order, signed by regional field administrator William Paden, states that an unannounced investigation began a few days after the crash and found "a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety." It said the company does not monitor its drivers' hours of service or require them to submit records of duty status.
Other problems include neglecting to properly maintain driver-qualification requirements and vehicle-maintenance records, as well as a failure to require drivers to prepare driver-inspection reports.
"The ongoing compliance review and investigation has discovered a deterioration in your safety management controls and widespread safety violations that demonstrate a continuing and flagrant general disregard for compliance," the document states.
Associated Press sources contributed to this article.
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