FMCSA shuts down DC-area party bus company

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 4/24/2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered a Beltway-based party bus carrier to immediately cease operating after an investigation declared the company an “imminent hazard to public safety.”

FMCSA announced Wednesday, April 24, that it had ordered Washington DC Party Shuttle, which also does business under the name Onboard DC Tours, to cease operating its passenger buses. The company operates as a tour bus service in both Washington, DC, and New York City.

The out-of-service order marks the first time FMCSA has shut down a passenger carrier after the agency deployed more than 50 specially trained safety investigators to target high-risk passenger carriers in early April.

According to FMCSA’s out-of-service order, the FMCSA investigation revealed “egregious regulatory violations demonstrating Washington DC Party Shuttle’s blatant disregard for motor coach passenger safety.

The order said the company repeatedly allowed one driver who had tested positive for controlled substance use to continue driving busloads of paying customers, though the company lied to investigators about his work after the positive tests. Another driver was allowed to work before passing any drug or alcohol testing. The order said the company failed even to inform its employees of federally required drug and alcohol testing.

The order also said Washington DC Party Shuttle had no maintenance program to ensure its buses were operating safety.

“We are making good on our pledge to get unsafe bus companies off the road,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, according to the news release. “We are committed to protecting the traveling public and we will not hesitate to take action.”

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said FMCSA’s sole focus remains safety, according to the release.

“Every passenger stepping onto a commercial bus or van is entitled to a safe driver and safe vehicle, regardless of whether it is a major carrier, a curb-side operation, a charter or, in this case, a party and tour service,” Ferro said.

To help educate the public, FMCSA has made its SaferBus mobile app available to potential travel customers. The app allows bus riders to quickly review a bus company’s safety record before they buy a ticket or book group travel. It is available for iPhone, iPad and Android phone users, and can be downloaded for free here.

Travel patrons who paid for a ticket to a bus company that FMCSA has recently placed out of service may be entitled to a credit from their credit card company under the Fair Credit Billing Act, FMCSA said in the release. More information is available here.

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