Federal bus regulators have shut down a number of bus companies in the past few weeks for egregious safety violations, but those shutdown orders aren’t always the final word.
Some banned bus companies have gone to great lengths to get around regulators. One common tactic—referred to as reincarnation—is for the companies to simply reopen using a different name. The government shut down one such company last week. Regulators said the Georgia-based company was defying a previous shutdown order.
The same thing happened when regulators shut down the Sky Express bus company after an accident killed four people in Virginia last month. Days after ordering the company to shut down, regulators found it operating under two different names—108 Tours and 108 Bus—and ordered the company to cease and desist. USA Today reported that Sky Express employees were painting over company buses in order to stay in operation.
Bus safety regulators have been under scrutiny for failing to act quickly against unsafe bus companies. As we noted, regulators postponed shutting down Sky Express in May, just days before the fatal accident.
The Transportation Department is trying to address the issue of so-called reincarnation. One of the recent safety rules the agency proposed after a string of deadly, high-profile bus accidents includes establishing a federal standard to determine whether a new bus company is just a reincarnation of a company that was previously shut down. It has also asked Congress to increase the fines for companies caught operating illegally.
This weekend alone, transportation regulators shut down two more bus companies over the weekend, declaring them “imminent hazards” to public safety. One of the companies was found to be transporting passengers in a luggage compartment.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and it begins with practicing common sense,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “That means not putting human beings in cargo holds.”