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Bus Companies Ignore Government Shutdown Orders, Deceive Public

Last week we discussed how many discount bus companies are creating a serious public hazard by cutting corners in safety-minded aspects of their operations. Whether it's inadequate bus driver screening, training and supervision, or the improper installation and maintenance of safety-oriented features aboard the buses, the safety shortcuts have a deadly impact on passengers in New York. Almost unbelievably, the story has taken another turn - for the worse.

You likely remember the name SkyExpress, a discount bus company based in Charlotte with an office here in New York City. As we discussed last week, SkyExpress was the bus carrier whose fatigued driver caused the deaths of four people and seriously injured more than 50 on May 31. In response, the government shut down SkyExpress operations. Or did they?

Reincarnated Carriers

While not formally operating under the name SkyExpress, the business is still selling tickets to passengers under two other discount bus company names, as reported by USA Today. The shady maneuver illuminates a little-known, but deadly, practice in the private bus industry, where a shut-down business repaints their buses, shuffles some names around and reopens an operation nearly identical to the one the federal government just shut down.

As reported by USA Today, about 1 in 10 private bus carriers "reincarnate" themselves after a government-ordered shutdown. This scheme not only disregards the government's regulating authority, but shamelessly deceives the unknowing passengers into riding on an unsafe bus. Unfortunately, there is yet another sickening twist in the SkyExpress story.

Federal Government Barked but Didn't Bite

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) knew that SkyExpress was operating in violation of required safety regulations weeks before the fatal crash on May 31. Yet the government permitted SkyExpress to operate until the fatal accident occurred. In fact, the FMCSA found explicit safety violations in SkyExpress operations but granted the bus company a 10-day extension to keep their business up and running. The four-death crash occurred on the third day of the FMCSA extension.

Of course, the paying passengers of SkyExpress that were injured or killed had no idea they were entrusting their safety to a bus company that was running a substandard operation. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has since banned the granting of these unwarranted extensions, but it's clear that the damage has already been done.

Untangling the Web of Deceit

If you or a loved one is injured by a private bus company, the responsible parties may go far beyond the named bus carrier. A comprehensive legal investigation may be necessary to uncover alter egos that operate in conniving fashion under an alias. Contact a reputable personal injury attorney to hold all responsible parties accountable.

Sources: USA Today, "Feds call reincarnated bus companies dangerous" June 13, 2011. Bloomberg.com, "Unsafe buses stay on road as U.S. regulator backs off shutdowns" June 12, 2011.

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