The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) late Friday said it had issued a cease-and-desist order against Sky Express Inc., which operated the bus that crashed in Virginia on May 31, killing four and injuring dozens. According to an FMCSA news release, Sky Express is an “unsafe, illegal bus company… attempting to operate and sell tickets under different names, including 108 Tours and 108 Bus.” The order was placed in effect immediately.
What’s more, said FMCSA, as part of its investigation of Sky Express and the agency’s “commitment to pursue enforcement action against unsafe ‘reincarnated’ bus companies, it has subpoenaed the records of three websites that have sold tickets for Sky Express and several other bus companies. Those websites are www.gotobus.com, www.taketours.com and www.2001bus.com.
However, IvyMedia Corp., operator of the GotoBus.com and TakeTours.com websites, told FleetOwner that it has issued a statement to clarify what it terms a “false accusation on selling Sky Express bus tickets on TakeTours.com.” The company stated that TakeTours.com, launched in early March of 2011, is a dedicated website for marketing tour services for IvyMedia Corp. and “has never sold any Sky Express ticket.”
“Furthermore,”the statement continued, “from late afternoon of May 31, GotoBus.com stopped selling any Sky Express bus ticket, after learning that DOT/FMCSA was suspending Sky Express' DOT license on the same day on which a fatal accident occured. After May 31, GotoBus.com has not signed up any new service provider for the routes between NC/SC to New York City where Sky Express used to run.”
In addition, on June 4, 2001, IvyMedia said it sent a statement out that IvyMedia does not own or operate 2001bus.com, “as many news articles falsely portrayed.”
Back on May 31,FMCSA issued an unsatisfactory safety rating and placed North Carolina-based Sky Express out-of-service for violating multiple federal safety regulations. Per that out-of-service order, Sky Express is prohibited from operating in interstate and intrastate commerce.
Sky Express was involved in a fatal crash on I-95 about 30 miles north of Fredericksburg, VA, that killed four passengers and injured dozens of others on May 31. That crash underscored once again the danger of drowsy driving by operators of commercial vehicles.
According to a report posted online that day by The New York Daily News, the bus, which was carrying 59 passengers and had left Greensboro, NC at 10:30 PM Monday, “strayed off a highway and hit an embankment around 5 AM. The report noted that “The only person who wasn't hurt was the driver-- and he may have fallen asleep at the wheel, said Sgt. Thomas Molnar of the Virginia State Police.”
“Every day, across the country, we are focused on getting bad actors off the road,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Our goal is to create a tight net of enforcement so that when consumers select a bus company and purchase a ticket, they can be confident their bus trip will be a safe one.”
FMCSA noted that last month, along with state and local law enforcement partners, it conducted more than 3,000 surprise passenger-carrier safety inspections over a two-week period that resulted in 442 unsafe buses or drivers being removed from the nation’s roadways.
The joint strike force issued out-of-service citations to 127 drivers and 315 vehicles during the unannounced inspections that took place from May 1 – 15, 2011.
“We are relentlessly targeting unsafe and illegal bus companies,” added Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This [cease-and-desist and subpoena] action sends a strong message that the U.S. Department of Transportation will utilize every legal and enforcement tool available to shut down unsafe bus companies and protect passengers and motorists.”
A recent FleetOwner video featured FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro discussing why the annual Roadcheck safety-enforcement effort serves to remind all highway users how vital safe operation is on the road.