FMCSA shuts down Rimock bus company in Montana after 79 violations in 8 buses
An increase in bus accidents in the news prompts FMCSA to crack down on unsafe bus companies
Terrible bus accidents have been in the news of late. And this has become a topic of increasing importance for lawyers to understand how to litigate these types of cases. While a bus accident has some similarities to a truck accident, they can be very different in many critical ways.
Also, it has been our own personal experiences from litigating these cases that the major bus companies will fight tooth and nail before turning over driving manuals. Steven Gursten, Michael Leizerman and I have all spoken at legal seminars for attorneys on how to litigate bus accident cases in 2013, which reflects how important it is to teach lawyers how to successfully litigate these cases.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently been cracking down on unsafe bus companies. Earlier this spring, the FMCSA shut down a dangerous bus company called Rimrock Stages, Inc., which was doing business in Montana as Rimrock Trailways and Rimrock Stages.
The FMSCA inspection produced an astonishing 79 violations of federal safety requirements, including 33 violations that individually required the vehicles to be placed out of service. To really underscore how egregious these violations truly are, consider that these 79 violations were identified across only 8 buses.
The FMCSA immediately ordered each of the eight buses inspected out of service.
But subsequent investigation of the company itself revealed a more telling story. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations all motor carriers must “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain…all motor vehicles” within its fleet. (§ 396.3(a)).
Furthermore, truck and bus companies are required to maintain a detailed record of each commercial vehicle they maintain for a period of more than 30 days. (§ 396.3(b)). In this record, motor carriers must include details about inspection, repair and maintenance. (§ 396.3(b)(3)).
Following its investigation of the company, the FMCSA concluded that Rimrock failed to do all of these things. The Agency found that Rimrock did not have adequate safety management practices in place. The bus company was unable to adequately ensure its commercial buses were systematically and properly inspected, repaired and maintained, as required by the Safety Regulations.
Beyond that, the investigation also revealed that Rimrock failed to competently repair its buses, failed to ensure that its mechanics were qualified and competent, and failed to ensure that its commercial motor vehicles met minimum safety standards. Having failed to do all of these things, the FMCSA was satisfied that Rimrock intentionally and knowingly dispatched vehicles with safety defects, placing the bus drivers, bus passengers and fellow motorists at risk.
The company was ordered to immediately cease operations.
The FMCSA, through the Secretary of Transportation possesses the power to immediately shut down dangerous bus companies, or order dangerous bus drivers off the road pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 521(b)(5)(A). This is an effective weapon in the FMCSA’s fight against unsafe motor carriers and dangerous commercial drivers. According to the statute, if the Secretary “determines that a violation…poses an imminent hazard to safety” following investigation, the Secretary has the power to order a shutdown of that company, or to get that bus driver off of the highway.
The FMCSA has done all motorists a favor by shutting down this dangerous carrier. There are a lot of dangerous bus companies out there who do not fulfill their obligations under the Safety Regulations. Be aware of these bad companies, as they often hurt people in bus accidents. The next time you book a trip on a commercial motor coach, please “look before you book” using the SaferBus app.
For more information about this FMCSA order please see: FMCSA orders immediate shutdown of bus company Rimrock Stages.