Utah-based passenger carrier Serv-A-Bus was shut down by the FMCSA this week after being deemed an imminent hazard to public safety. The order comes after Gene Brady, Serv-A-Bus owner, was given a cease operations order and his USDOT authority was revoked upon receiving an unsatisfactory safety rating back in January 2013. Serv-A-Bus continued transporting passengers – mostly school children – despite the cease order.
One such incident occurred on Feb. 13, 2014, where Serv-A-Bus transported the Beaver High School speech and debate team from Utah to Berkeley, Calif. Brady assigned a driver to operate the 28-passenger vehicle. The driver was never given a pre-employment test. Despite complaints from passengers and assuring school officials that a second driver would pick up duties in Las Vegas, the original driver made the entire 14 1/2 hour trip.
According to the FMCSA, the vehicle used to transport the speech and debate team was in poor condition. Bungee cords held the bumpers, luggage compartment doors and mirror above the driver onto the bus. While on the highway, the front sliding doors would unexpectedly open. A strong gas odor was observed by passengers, and one passenger was instructed to hold a pillow over the interior engine access hatch.
The driver himself was also a hazard on the road, according to the FMCSA report. Passengers reported that they noticed him taking off his sweatshirt while operating the vehicle, which caused the bus to swerve dramatically. Unsafe lane changes that nearly forced other cars off the road were also observed by passengers. After determining Serv-A-Bus was hazardous, the Beaver High School team arranged another service for their return trip.
On the return trip to Utah, Brady’s driver began experiencing engine problems and noticed smoke coming into the driver’s area. The driver pulled the bus over to the side of the highway, where he noticed sparks coming from under the vehicle. Shortly after, flames appeared and engulfed the bus. Two explosions occurred, which sent parts flying. Fortunately, the speech and debate team was not on the bus since they made the decision to terminate their business with Serv-A-Bus. FMCSA and UDOT initiated an investigation on Feb. 21, 2014.
Issues with Brady and Serv-A-Bus go back as far as 2009. Past violations included failure to implement any kind of drug and alcohol testing program, failure to ensure drivers were qualified to operate commercial motor vehicles, failure to comply with HOS rules, and failure to ensure that any of the vehicles were inspected, maintained, and repaired.
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